An inmate’s drawing shows a question mark in a womb. (GLAHR / Innovation Law Lab / Georgia Detention Watch / South Georgia Immigrant Support Network)

The Biden administration will close two immigration detention centers in Georgia and Massachusetts that are being investigated for alleged abuse of detained immigrants, including the Irwin County Georgia Detention Center, where numerous women reported being medically ill-treated.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas ordered the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Thursday to end the detention of immigrants in Irwin “as soon as possible and in accordance with all legal obligations,” and the same at the C. Carlos Carreiro Immigration Detention Center in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts. , and to terminate an agreement with the Bristol County (Mass.) Sheriff’s Office that “is no longer operationally required”.

As of April 22, the Irwin County’s Ocilla, Georgia facility stopped holding immigrant women after dozens eventually stepped forward to report unnecessary medical procedures performed by a local gynecologist that the women said they could do without Their approval reports were carried out times. Several women were deported after they spoke publicly or in front of federal investigators about their experiences with gynecologist Dr. Mahendra Amin testified, who denies the allegations and continues to be criminally investigated.

According to reports from independent medical experts and interviews with the Times, a number of the women say they continue to suffer from the effects of procedures, which included forced sterilization and the removal of the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes. Some still don’t know what exactly 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 told the Times.

Mayorkas ordered that all evidence be retained in Irwin for “ongoing investigations” and, if necessary, relocate remaining ICE personnel and detained immigrants.

The story goes on

“Allow me to state a basic principle: We will not tolerate the mistreatment of people in civil immigration detention or poor conditions of detention,” Mayorkas said in a memo to incumbent ICE director Tae Johnson, who, according to a statement, led the closure of the sites .

President Biden campaigned to end the use of for-profit detention facilities, but there was little evidence prior to Thursday’s move that this was 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 the Immigration Service. The vast majority of the hundreds of immigration detention centers in the United States are operated by private prison companies that hold more than 80% of immigrants incarcerated.

ICE is using 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 Homeland Security Department pays independent doctors like Amin, who practice in nearby Douglas, Georgia, to treat patients in custody.

Mayorkas said Thursday the closure of the two facilities was “an important first step” towards achieving “lasting improvements” in the US immigration detention system.

Lawyers and attorneys who have worked with the women at Irwin welcomed the policy but called for greater accountability and noted that several of the women who alleged abuse at Irwin while being released to the United States are still final Deportation orders are faced and are still at risk of deportation. Attorneys have filed several injunctions against the deportations, arguing that the then Trump administration was the 1st

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

“The Irwin survivors need more,” she said. “All of these women deserve to be 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 horrific attacks in detention centers,” she continued. “But closing these facilities is just the beginning. The immigration detention system is fraught with abuse and the system needs to be reformed and abolished.”

The alleged abuses in Irwin sparked a national outcry in September last year after a facility nurse filed a 27-page whistleblower complaint with the Inspector General of Homeland Security, which resulted in more than 170 lawmakers calling for an investigation.

MP Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Who led calls to investigate the whistleblower’s allegations and ultimately a House resolution condemning Irwin’s coercive medical procedures, said she would put pressure on Biden to deliver on his election promise .

“I am happy that the facility is closing, but I will not stop fighting for full responsibility 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 liability 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 detention centers is treated with dignity,” he said in a statement, but continued, “The decision made today to close two ICE detention centers may not be the only way be to ensure security 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 the ICE’s ability to detain illegal immigrants across the country. “

Mayorkas said he will continue to review reports of abuse in other federal detention centers for immigration authorities and has ordered updates on “quality of treatment for detainees” and “detention conditions” as well as operational requirements with the Homeland Security administration.

Mayorkas also directed ICE to terminate a so-called 287 (g) agreement with the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office in Massachusetts. The arrangements delegate some federal agencies to local and state police enforcement for immigration enforcement 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 its immigration detention center in connection with a protest over COVID-19 conditions that resulted in the hospitalization of several immigrants. The Massachusetts Attorney General later found that authorities had used dogs and pepper spray on detained immigrants, thereby violating their civil rights.

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

In 2019, the Inspector General of Homeland Security found that ICE’s multi-layered contractual 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 that “directly affect the life, health, safety and / or well-being of inmates”.

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

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

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.