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Jayapal Responds to the Closing of the Irwin County Detention Center After Months of Leadership

Jayapal visited the private, for-profit facility in September before passing her resolution condemning the unwanted, unnecessary medical procedures

WASHINGTON — Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) joined immigrant women, on-the-ground advocates, and organizers across the country in celebrating today’s announcement that the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Ga. will be shutting down. The Congresswoman was the first lawmaker to speak with attorneys after a whistleblower detailed how a doctor contracted with the detention center had performed unnecessary medical procedures — including hysterectomies and other surgeries involving women’s reproductive organs — without their knowledge or consent. She also visited the private, for-profit facility in September before returning to Congress to successfully pass her resolution condemning the unwanted, unnecessary medical procedures performed on women without their full, informed consent. 

“Today’s hard fought victory for justice, dignity, and human rights is a powerful testament to the strong immigrant women who bravely spoke their truth, the unwavering advocates who stood by their side each day, and the committed organizers all across America who lifted their voices to demand that the Irwin County Detention Center be closed while holding all those responsible for the inhumane cruelty fully accountable,” said Congresswoman Jayapal. “From the first moment I spoke with attorneys about what was occurring at Irwin to my time visiting with women at the facility, it was clear that urgent action was needed to stop their torture and protect their health, wellbeing, and rights. That is why I led my colleagues in calling for an immediate investigation and it is why we passed my resolution condemning these inhumane acts. I am glad to see the facility closing, but I will not stop fighting for full accountability for what happened and for real justice for all of the women impacted. It is long overdue that we end the use of private, for-profit facilities throughout this country, repeal mandatory detention, and promote community-based alternatives. With the voices of immigrant women leading the way and the support of advocates in every community, we must  finally pass humane immigration legislation — including my Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act — that completely reforms our broken system once and for all.”

In September, Congresswoman Jayapal led 173 lawmakers in urging the DHS Inspector General to open an immediate investigation following a whistleblower allegation of mass hysterectomies being performed on women detained at the privately-run Irwin County Detention Center. Hours later, she became the first lawmaker to speak with attorneys representing women who were subjected to forced, invasive procedures in order to further investigate the matter. Following the conversation, Representative Jayapal announced her findings that at a minimum, 17 women had been subjected to unnecessary medical gynecological procedures, often without appropriate consent or knowledge.

During the next week, Congresswoman Jayapal led lawmakers in sending a letter to DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf that urged him to pause the removal of any individuals who experienced medical procedures at the facility, and allow them to have immediate access to adequate, safe and consensual medical treatment. The letter also identified more than one dozen requests for relevant documents, data, and communications related to Dr. Amin and the Irwin County Detention Center.

Congresswoman Jayapal traveled to the facility in late September to speak with women there. Upon returning to Washington, D.C., she joined Representatives Kuster, Jackson Lee, Garcia, and Frankel in leading 181 lawmakers in introducing her Resolution in the House of Representatives that condemned the forced medical procedures. It also called on DHS to immediately comply with all investigations and records requests related to investigations while ensuring affected individuals are able to freely participate in any investigation. The resolution passed the House in early October.