FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
November 15, 2022
Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs to Conduct Hearing on Medical Mistreatment of Women in ICE Detention
Government Accountability Project Submits Written Statement Regarding Whistleblower Nurse Dawn Wooten Whose Disclosures Prompted Congressional Investigation
WASHINGTON–Government Accountability Project’s Senior Counsel Dana Gold provided a written statement for the record to the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI) of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs in support of its hearing today on the Medical Mistreatment of Women in ICE Detention. Government Accountability Project’s client, Nurse Dawn Wooten, made protected whistleblower disclosures to the Department of Homeland Security and Congress in September 2020 regarding failures at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in southern Georgia to protect against the spread of COVID and, more horrifically, that immigrant women in detention were being subjected to nonconsensual and invasive gynecological procedures.
Ms. Wooten’s disclosures, joined by the accounts of immigrant women in detention who experienced medical mistreatment, were vital to exposing the abuses that prompted this Subcommittee’s investigation and Tuesday’s hearing. In addition to this hearing, viral media coverage of Ms. Wooten and her shocking disclosures catalyzed profound and necessary accountability by prompting additional Congressional and agency investigations, inquiries from entities of the United Nations, a class action lawsuit seeking justice for the women survivors’ mistreatment, and ultimately, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’s decision in May 2021 to order ICE to end its immigration contract with ICDC.
Stressing the crucial role of whistleblowers in exposing abuses to prompt oversight and accountability, as well as the severe retaliation Ms. Wooten has faced since her disclosures, Gold stated that DHS whistleblowers need better protection from retaliation:
“We will never know how many more individuals held in immigration custody or detention facility staff would have fallen gravely ill or even perished as a result of inadequate medical and hygiene protocols during the pandemic, or how many more women would be rendered unable to reproduce as a result of unnecessary gynecological procedures performed without informed consent, but for Ms. Wooten’s cataclysmic disclosures…We urge the Subcommittee to consider the critical role that whistleblowers like Dawn Wooten play in shedding light on dangerous conditions and abuses within the ICE detention system, and to investigate the DHS OIG’s failure to prioritize the issuance of findings in her retaliation claim.”
Contact: Andrew Harman, Government Accountability Project Communications Director