Immigrants in a US detention facility endured excessive, unnecessary gynecological procedures, often without consent, according to a bipartisan Senate investigation that offers the starkest details yet of alleged mistreatment.
The probe centers on the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia but raises red flags about inadequate safeguards throughout the immigration detention system, a senior Senate official said in an exclusive interview with Bloomberg Government before the release of the findings.
The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations — a powerful panel of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee — will present at a Tuesday hearing the conclusions of its 18-month investigation into conditions at the Irwin County Detention Center. Chairman Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) and ranking member Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) led the review.
The investigation builds on earlier scrutiny of the privately run Georgia facility following allegations from a whistleblower who said a doctor contracted by the detention center had performed gynecological procedures on detainees without their consent. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas halted US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s use of the facility last year.
Senate investigators reviewed hundreds of thousands of pages of medical records and related documents, and determined immigrants at the Irwin County center were subjected to unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds, contraceptive injections, and dilation and curettage procedures, the Senate official said. The report also highlights repeated failures by detention officials to obtain informed consent from detainees and a failure by ICE to vet medical providers and ensure detainees’ basic human rights, the official said.
According to the report, the doctor at the center of the Irwin County allegations accounted for 6.5% of OB-GYN visits among ICE detainees nationwide during a three-year period but performed more than 90% of the contraceptive injections and more than 82% of the dilation and curettage procedures, which remove uterine lining.
The Justice Department previously investigated the doctor and others over allegations of submitting false claims under Medicare and Medicaid; the case ended in a financial settlement.
Witnesses for Tuesday’s Senate hearing include a former detainee, medical professionals, and the medical director of Louisiana-based LaSalle Corrections, which operates the Georgia facility. Stewart Smith, assistant director of ICE’s Health Service Corps, and Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph Cuffari, who has conducted related probes into the detention center, will also testify.
A previous probe by the House Oversight and Reform and Homeland Security committees was inconclusive on whether migrants were subject to forced surgeries but concluded the facility’s doctor was providing substandard care. Cuffari’s office earlier this year raised concerns about many of the facility’s medical policies and procedures, and is working on a separate investigation into the authorization process for surgical procedures across ICE detention facilities.