ICE Closes Georgia Irwin Detention Middle Amid Federal Investigation

The Biden government will shut down two immigration detention centers in Georgia and Massachusetts that are being investigated for alleged abuse of detained immigrants, including the Georgia Irwin County Detention Center, where numerous women alleged to have suffered medical abuse.

Homeland Security Minister Alejandro Mayorkas on Thursday directed immigration and customs authorities to stop detaining immigrants in Irwin “as soon as possible and in accordance with legal obligations,” including at the C. Carlos Carreiro Immigration Detention Center in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts, and to terminate an agreement with the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office, “which is no longer operationally required”.

As of April 22, the Irwin County facility in Ocilla, Georgia was no longer immigrant after dozens eventually stepped forward to report unnecessary medical procedures by a local gynecologist, which the women said were performed without their consent, according to Times reporting . Several women were deported after they spoke publicly or told federal investigators about their experiences with the gynecologist Dr. Mahendra Amin, who denies the allegations and continues to be criminally investigated.

A number of women say they continue to experience the after-effects of procedures, which included forced sterilization and removal of the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes. This is based on reports from independent medical experts and interviews from The Times. Some still don’t know exactly what was done to them.

“All the pain … was worth it,” said Jaromy Floriano Navarro, who was deported to Mexico shortly after speaking about alleged abuses in Irwin last year, in a statement shared with The Times.

Mayorkas ordered that all evidence be kept in Irwin for “ongoing investigations” and that remaining ICE staff and detained immigrants be relocated if necessary.

“Allow me to lay out a basic principle: we will not tolerate the mistreatment of people in civil immigration detention or inferior detention conditions,” Mayorkas said in a memo to incumbent ICE director Tae Johnson, who, according to a statement, ordered the sites to be closed.

President Biden promised during the campaign to end the use of for-profit detention facilities, but there was little evidence that this had happened prior to Thursday’s move, as first reported by the Washington Post.

Within days of taking office, Biden ordered the Justice Department not to renew contracts with private prison companies, but specifically omitted the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the detention of immigrants. Of the hundreds of immigration detention centers in the United States, private prison societies operate the vast majority and hold more than 80% of immigrants incarcerated.

ICE uses Irwin in conjunction with the US Marshals Service as part of an intergovernmental agreement. LaSalle Corrections, the private, for-profit prison company that operates the facility, also operates 25 other detention centers, correctional facilities and prisons. The company did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.

The Department of Homeland Security pays independent doctors like Amin, who practice in nearby Douglas, Georgia, to treat incarcerated patients.

Mayorkas said Thursday the closure of the two facilities was “an important first step” toward a goal of “making sustainable improvements” to the US immigration detention system.

Lawyers and attorneys who have worked with the women in Irwin welcomed the policy but called for greater accountability and noted that some of the women who alleged abuse in Irwin while being released to the US are still facing final deportation orders stand and are still at risk of deportation. Attorneys have filed several lawsuits seeking temporary injunctions against the moves on the grounds that the then-Trump administration violated the 1st Amendment of Women and Due Process Rights, as well as longstanding guidelines for the protection of those involved in criminal investigations have.

According to Elora Mukherjee, director of the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School, some of the women were deported and separated from their children with US citizens. They have requested to reopen their immigration cases and return on humanitarian parole.

“The Irwin survivors need more,” she said. “All of these women deserve to be at home in the US with their loved ones and receive the support and reparations they need to recover.”

“These closings are an important first step in combating appalling abuses in detention centers,” she continued. “The shutdown of these facilities is just the beginning. The immigrant detention system is fraught with abuse and the system needs to be reformed and abolished. “

The alleged mistreatment in Irwin sparked a national outcry in September last year after a nurse at the facility filed a 27-page whistleblower complaint with the Inspector General for Homeland Security, prompting more than 170 lawmakers to call for an investigation.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., Who led the investigation into the whistleblower’s allegations and ultimately a House resolution condemning the coercive medical procedures at Irwin, said she would continue to pressure Biden to make his election promise to be observed.

“I’m glad the facility is closing, but I won’t stop fighting for full accountability for what happened and for real justice for all women concerned,” she said. “It is long overdue for us to end the use of private, for-profit facilities across the country, remove compulsory detention and promote community-based alternatives.”

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) had the opposite reaction to the announced closings.

“We need to ensure that everyone detained in ICE facilities is treated with dignity,” he said in a statement, but continued, “Today’s decision to close two ICE facilities may not be the only way to go to ensure safety and dignity. And it cannot be the beginning of a concerted effort by the Biden administration to undermine the enforcement of our immigration laws by eliminating ICE’s ability to detain illegal immigrants across the country. “

Mayorkas said he will continue to review reports of ill-treatment in other federal immigration detention centers and has ordered updates on “quality of treatment for detainees” and “detention conditions” and operational requirements with Homeland Security officials.

Mayorkas also directed ICE to terminate what is known as a 287 (g) agreement with the Bristol County Sheriff’s office in Massachusetts. The arrangements delegate some federal immigration agencies to local and state police and have been expanded dramatically under the Trump administration.

In May 2020, the Massachusetts ACLU sued the Bristol Sheriff’s office over a “violent incident” at their immigration detention center that resulted from a protest over COVID-19 conditions that resulted in several immigrants being hospitalized. The Massachusetts Attorney General later found that authorities had used dogs and pepper spray on detained immigrants to violate their civil rights.

Biden pledged during the 2020 presidential campaign to end all 287 (g) deals struck by his predecessor and to “aggressively restrict” the use of 287 (g), long considered controversial in California.

In 2019, the Inspector General for Homeland Security found that ICE’s multi-tier contract system “does not hold detention contractors adequately accountable for failing to meet performance standards.”

ICE’s own inspection reports found that Irwin consistently violated national detention standards, which “directly affect the life, health, safety and / or well-being of detainees.”

The inspection reports also showed that Irwin routinely referred more than 1,000 detainees a year for outside medical care, far more than most detention facilities of its size.

“DHS detention facilities and the treatment of people in those facilities will meet our health and safety standards,” Mayorkas said. “Where we find they are falling short, we will continue to take action as we do today.”