The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in May that the Georgia facility where immigrant women abused by a notorious gynecologist were held would be shuttered. It was a momentous victory for both immigrants and their advocates, who had been calling for the Irwin County Detention Center’s closure as part of justice for women traumatized by Dr. Mahendra Amin.
But despite the Biden administration’s announcement that Irwin would be closed “as soon as possible,” the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) on Monday said that three months later, immigrants are still being detained at the privately run facility.
“Three months ago, Secretary Mayorkas ordered the closure of this facility, which has a long and well-documented history of inflicting horrific abuse and neglect on people held there,” including at the hands of Amin, SPLC Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative lead attorney Maura Finn said. Tina Vasquez reported for Prism that despite having settled numerous malpractice lawsuits, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) still “referred detained women to Amin for reproductive health care, along with private prison company LaSalle Corrections, which contracts with ICE to run ICDC.”
Women who subsequently spoke out about the abuses were deported, or threatened with deportation. So when Mayorkas announced in May that the administration was terminating ICE contracts for Irwin (as well as Bristol County Detention Center in Massachusetts), it was to the relief of immigrants and their advocates. At that time of that announcement, no women were being detained at Irwin. But now, according to the SPLC, there are “continuing immigration detention operations” at Irwin.
“Enough is enough,” Finn continued. “ICE must finally close this facility and those held should be released rather than transferred to yet another abusive facility—especially amid the latest COVID-19 surges happening around the country but primarily in the Southeast.”
The Biden administration is also facing a lawsuit over transfers after it moved dozens of detainees from a New Jersey facility in the dead of night, and without any word to their families or advocates. The organizations that sued noted ICE already has a history of sending immigrants to remote regions of the nation, intentionally making it harder for them to reach relatives, advocacy groups, and legal representation.
ICE transfers have also worsened the pandemic, particularly as the agency ramped up its vaccination efforts just recently. But advocates say that many detainees are being given little to no basic information about the vaccine, likely making many afraid to take it. “Often what I hear and see from patients is that there will be big, large-scale offerings, where a whole housing area will be told, ‘take it or leave it,'” epidemiologist Homer Venters recently told CBS News. “That is one approach that results in some people getting vaccinated. But there are a lot of people who just have basic questions about the vaccine, the safety or about their own health that require counseling.”
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