DOJ Agrees to Temporarily Halt Deportations of Immigrant Women Who Alleged Medical Abuse at ICE Facility

This article features our client Dawn Wooten and was originally published here

On November 24, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) agreed to temporarily halt the deportations of detained immigrant women who alleged abuse at an immigration detention facility in Georgia, according to a court filing reported on by Vice. The government had previously been aggressively trying to deport the women who alleged widespread medical abuse at Irwin County Detention Center, including forced hysterectomies.

The court filing, a motion of consent filed in the Middle District of Georgia by attorneys from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, protects at least four women from deportation until at least January 21 – the start of the Biden-Harris administration. President-Elect Biden previously pledged to place a moratorium on all deportations for the first 100 days of his administration.

The immigrant women are being detained at Irwin County Detention Center, a privately-run U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility in Ocilla, Georgia. The women’s allegations became public when Dawn Wooten, a former nurse at Irwin, filed a whistleblower report detailing their allegations as well as her own. The report alleges widespread medical neglect and human rights abuse at the detention facility, particularly in regards to the facility’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The allegations include accounts of non-consensual hysterectomies and other procedures being performed on detained immigrant women. Wooten’s whistleblower report detailed concerns about the high rate at which hysterectomies were being performed on detained women at Irwin, as well as the lack of consent and understanding on the part of the detained women being operated on.

According to Vice, the four women covered by the court filing are “Mbeti Ndonga, who immigrated from Kenya as a toddler; Yanira Yessenia Oldaker, who was brought to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 3; Ana Cajigal Adan, who moved from Mexico when she was 6 months old; and J.R., who fled to the United States in 2016 while nine months pregnant after escaping an abusive partner.” The filing additionally restricts the immediate deportation of other immigrant women detained at Irwin who have “substantially similar factual allegations.”

“The women detained at Irwin have organized and exposed medical atrocities and retaliation. ICE tried to silence them by deporting them, thinking that they and their contractors could act with impunity. But now the women at Irwin have some limited protection to speak freely about the abuses they have endured,” Elora Mukherjee, a Columbia University law professor representing several of the women, told Business Insider.