Mayorkas orders ICE to shut down Georgia facility that forced sterilizations on migrant women
ICE will stop detaining immigrants at two county jails under federal investigation — in Georgia and Massachusetts.
A pair of county jails will cease detaining immigrants after Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejeandro Mayorkas ordered Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to immediately terminate their contracts. Both are currently under federal investigation.
The facilities are Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia, and Bristol County Sheriff’s Office in Massachusetts.
Irwin County Facility became notorious last Fall for heinous reports of hysterectomies and unwanted gynecological procedures conducted on immigrant women, according to several first-hand accounts and reports.
The severity of the accounts led Democratic lawmakers, including members of the Hispanic Caucus and progressive “Squad” members to send a letter to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, citing “grave concerns about recent, ongoing, and credible allegations of egregious human rights abuses by the United States Department of Homeland Security.”
It was one of the more condemning reports regarding ICE in recent years, which some politicians, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez equated to a form of genocide.
.@HispanicCaucus members — led by @RepEspaillat @RepEscobar @RepRaulRuizMD — are demanding @DHSOIG immediately investigate allegations that people detained by @ICEgov underwent medical procedures unwittingly, including hysterectomies. pic.twitter.com/mEJxcNn3su
— Hispanic Caucus (@HispanicCaucus) September 16, 2020
At least 19 women reported undergoing medical procedures unknowingly, including hysterectomies and other gynecological procedures, following a whistleblower allegation of mass-hysterectomies performed on Spanish-speaking migrant women.
Both county jails are also under federal investigation for complaints of abuses against immigrants — allegations that remain open and unresolved — and those also factored into Mayorkas’s decision, the official said.
Bristol also faced a class-action lawsuit last year alleging unsafe conditions during the pandemic that led to the release of dozens of detainees.
Now, eight months later, Mayorkas has ordered ICE to immediately terminate its contract with the facility “as soon as possible,” according to a memo first reported by the Washington Post.
While Irwin County Detention no longer holds women at the facility, Mayorkas has ordered ICE to transfer the remaining immigrant detainees to other facilities, also rescinding an agreement with Irwin County sheriff’s office, which was trained to screen inmates for crimes to see if they were also eligible for deportation.
“Today’s decision by DHS to terminate the ICE contracts at Irwin and Briston detention facilities is an important step toward improving the inhumane immigrant detention system,” FWD.us wrote in a statement.
— FWD.us (@FWDus) May 20, 2021
Federal officials assert the move was part of Biden’s broader plans to overhaul the nation’s detention proceeding system at county jails and detention centers, but immigrants' rights activists expect more from Mayorkas.
Biden’s administration has been under increased pressure from progressive lawmakers and such groups ever since the end of his first 100 days, where he has yet to deliver on various promises in regards to immigration and detention.
“This is an important first step in ending the abuse and mistreatment of immigrants.” Rep. AOC wrote on Twitter. “However, the closure of only one ICE detention facility is not enough. We need to end the carceral state in immigration.”
This is an important first step in ending the abuse and mistreatment of immigrants.
However, the closure of only one ICE detention facility is not enough.
We need to end the carceral state in immigration. https://t.co/3gFarVIVCk
— Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@RepAOC) May 20, 2021
Mayorkas’ move comes after an initiative by Reps. AOC, Pramila Jayapal, Chuy Garcia, Ayanna Pressley and more, seeking to provide relief for the over-criminalization of immigrants.
Biden has not ended for-profit immigration detention centers, nor has he rescinded Trump-era rules that disqualified victims of gang and domestic violence from asylum.
While he did sign an executive order to terminate federal private prison contracts, Rep. Raúl Grijalva insisted that he could do more.
In February, he introduced his own bill that would phase-out private prison contracts and order the Justice Department to decline to renew new ones. It would also end contracts with private companies for other criminal justice organizations, including halfway houses, re-entry programs, and community treatment centers.
Still, the Post reports that Biden’s cautious moves thus far have come for something to show for. While DHS at the border is dealing with record numbers of unaccompanied minors, immigration arrests in the U.S. 's interior have dropped by more than half.
But Biden’s promise to end for-profit immigration facilities still stands.