- A former nurse at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Georgia has made a number of startling allegations in a federal complaint filed Monday to the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General.
- Most notably, the whistleblower accused the facility’s doctors of performing mass hysterectomies on female detainees.
- Her complaint also alleges, among other things, that facility officials underreported COVID-19 cases, denied symptomatic detainees’ requests for coronavirus tests, and even placed people who had tested positive back into the general population.
- ICE has said the complaint should be treated with “appropriate skepticism” because its allegations are unproven and “made without any fact-checkable specifics.”
Whistleblower Complains of Mass Hysterectomies
A whistleblower has accused a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Georgia of a number of inhumane and unethical practices, including performing mass hysterectomies on female detainees.
The allegations are part of a federal complaint filed on Monday to the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General. In it, the whistleblower is identified as Dawn Wooten, a nurse who had worked at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) until July 2020.
“Everybody he sees has a hysterectomy — just about everybody,” Wooten said of the gynecologist performing the procedures. “He’s even taken out the wrong ovary on a young lady. She was supposed to get her left ovary removed because it had a cyst on the left ovary; he took out the right one.“
“She was upset. She had to go back to take out the left and she wound up with a total hysterectomy. She still wanted children — so she has to go back home now and tell her husband that she can’t bear kids.”
One female detainee cited in the complaint even likened the procedures to that of “an experimental concentration camp.”
“It was like they’re experimenting with our bodies,” she said.
Wooten went on to say that many of the women receiving these procedures have told her that they didn’t fully understand why they had to get them. That has now raised the question of whether or not these women truly gave their informed consent.
“These immigrant women, I don’t think they really, totally, all the way understand this is what’s going to happen depending on who explains it to them,” Wooten said.
This is because, according to Wooten, nurses at the facility who don’t speak Spanish will use Google to try to communicate with patients. In other cases, Wooten said the nurses will use another detained immigrant to help interpret, rather than following protocol and using the language line.
The complaint also details the account of another woman, a detainee at the facility who said the staff at ICDC and the doctor’s office did not properly explain what procedure she was going to have.
In fact, that woman says she was given multiple different responses, including that she needed a small procedure to drain an ovarian cyst, that she was receiving a hysterectomy to have her womb removed, and later, that part of her vagina would be scraped off because she had a thick womb.
After receiving these conflicting explanations, the woman said she tried to explain that to a nurse, but the nurse responded by getting angry with her and yelling at her. According to the woman’s testimony in the complaint, the nurse’s response confirmed “that something was not right.”
Ultimately, this woman never actually received any of the procedures she said were described to her because she tested positive for COVID-19.
Wooten also alleged that there was a widespread disregard for protecting ICDC staff and detainees from COVID-19.
According to Wooten, that includes a lack of social distancing, denying tests for symptomatic detainees, and even placing people who had tested positive back into the general population.
Wooten claims that facility officials would underreport the number of positive cases. In some cases, she said nurses at the facility would shred medical requests submitted by detained immigrants and would fabricate medical records.
Regarding staff, Wooten said they were pressured to “work symptomatic and work positive as long as we had a mask on,” Notably, that is against the official policies of the facility.
Wooten said even though she became symptomatic at one point and submitted her doctor’s notes to her supervisor, they still required her to work until she told them she would be quarantining while her test results came back. When she later returned to work after testing negative, she said she was formally reprimanded for not calling in sick every day, even though she was allegedly told she didn’t have to.
Wooten also said she complained to leadership multiple times about medical safety at the facility but was later demoted, “all without a proper explanation or adequate justification.” She’s described the move as retaliation for speaking up.
“They’re still not taking this seriously,” Wooten told The Intercept. “Enough was enough.”
ICE Response and Government Reaction
Following these allegations, ICE told the Associated Press, “In general, anonymous, unproven allegations, made without any fact-checkable specifics, should be treated with the appropriate skepticism they deserve.”
In another statement to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, it also defended its handling of the coronavirus, saying, “ICE epidemiologists have been tracking the outbreak, regularly updating infection prevention and control protocols, and issuing guidance to ICE Health Service Corps staff for the screening and management of potential exposure among detainees.”
The private company that runs ICDC, LaSalle Corrections, has not publicly responded but is also implicated in the complaint.
This is also not the first time LaSalle has come under fire for how it has handled the pandemic. In July, multiple whistleblowers alleged that a separate detention center in Louisiana, which is operated by LaSalle, had engaged in “gross mismanagement, dangerous practices, and compliance failures” that accelerated the spread of COVID-19.
LaSalle Executive Director Rodney Cooper then defended the company before Congress, saying that it had taken “tremendous efforts” to “mitigate impacts of this unprecedented pandemic.”
Still, according to The Intercept, many of Wooten’s claims were corroborated by at least five others, including a member of ICDC’s medical staff and four people currently or recently detained there.
The same day the complaint was filed, Georgia House Minority Leader Bob Trammell (D) sent a letter to the state’s medical and nursing boards, asking them to suspend the licenses of any practitioners implicated in the complaint until a full investigation is conducted.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Ny.) has called the allegations part of “mass human rights violations,” saying on Twitter, “Our country must atone for it all.”
Thursday morning, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) echoed calls for an immediate investigation.
“If true, the appalling conditions described in the whistleblower complaint… are a staggering abuse of human rights,” she said in a statement.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Atlanta-Journal Constitution) (Associated Press)
SCOTUS Rules in Favor of Police in Two Qualified Immunity Cases
The move further solidifies the contentious legal doctrine that protects officers who commit alleged constitutional violations.
SCOTUS Hears Qualified Immunity Cases
The Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of police in two separate cases involving qualified immunity, the controversial legal doctrine that shields officers accused of violating constitutional rights from lawsuits.
The topic has become a major flashpoint in debates over police reform and curbing police violence since the protests against racial injustice and police brutality in the summer of 2020.
On one side, supporters of qualified immunity claim it is necessary to ensure that police can do their jobs without worrying about frivolous lawsuits.
However, opponents argue that judicial interpretations of the doctrine over time have given police incredibly broad legal immunity for misconduct and use of excessive force. Under a previous Supreme Court ruling, in order for officers to be held liable, plaintiffs have to show that they violated rights “clearly established” by a previous ruling.
In other words, officers cannot be held liable unless there is another case that involves almost identical circumstances.
As a result, many argue the doctrine creates a Catch-22: Officers are shielded from liability because there is no past precedent, but the reason there is no past precedent is because officers are shielded from liability in the first place.
An Ongoing Debate
Critics argue that the two cases the Supreme Court saw Monday illustrate that double bind, as both involved accusations of excessive force commonly levied against police.
In one case, officers used non-lethal bean bag rounds against a suspect and knelt on his back to subdue him. In the other, police shot and killed a suspect after he threatened them with a hammer.
The justices overturned both lower-court rulings without ordering full briefing and argument because of the lack of precedent. The court issued the decisions in unsigned orders with no dissent, signaling they did not even see the cases as close calls.
Advocates for qualified immunity claim the decisions signal that the current Supreme Court is not open to changing qualified immunity, and the most likely path for opponents of the doctrine is legislation.
While Democrats in Congress have made numerous efforts to limit qualified immunity, including most recently in the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act passed by the House earlier this year, all those attempts have been blocked by Republicans.
At the state level, dozens of bills have been killed after heavy lobbying from police unions. As a result, it remains unclear what path proponents for reform have at this juncture.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (The New York Times) (The Washington Post)
Florida School Says Students Vaccinated Against COVID-19 Must Stay Home for 30 Days
The school falsely claimed that people who have just been vaccinated risk “shedding” the coronavirus and could infect others.
Centner Academy Vaccination Policy
A private school in Florida is now requiring all students who get vaccinated against COVID-19 to quarantine for 30 days before returning to class.
According to the local Miami outlet WSVN, Centner Academy wrote a letter to parents last week describing COVID vaccines as “experimental” and citing anti-vaccine misinformation.
“If you are considering the vaccine for your Centner Academy student(s), we ask that you hold off until the Summer when there will be time for the potential transmission or shedding onto others to decrease,” the letter reportedly stated.
“Because of the potential impact on other students and our school community, vaccinated students will need to stay at home for 30 days post-vaccination for each dose and booster they receive and may return to school after 30 days as long as the student is healthy and symptom-free.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has debunked the false claim that those newly vaccinated against COVID-19 can “shed” the virus.
According to the agency’s COVID myths page, vaccine shedding “can only occur when a vaccine contains a weakened version of the virus,” but “none of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines in the United States contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. This means that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19.”
In fact, early research has suggested that vaccinated people are less likely to spread the virus than unvaccinated people.
Beyond that, unvaccinated people are more likely to spread COVID in general because they are much more likely to get the virus than vaccinated people. According to recently published CDC data, as of August, unvaccinated people were six times more likely to get COVID than vaccinated people and 11 times more likely to die from the virus.
Centner Academy Continues Spread of Misinformation
In a statement to The Washington Post Monday, Centner Academy co-founder David Centner doubled down on the school’s new policy, which he described as a “precautionary measure” based on “numerous anecdotal cases that have been in circulation.”
“The school is not opining as to whether unexplained phenomena have a basis in fact, however we prefer to err on the side of caution when making decisions that impact the health of the school community,” he added.
The new rule echoes similar efforts Centner Academy has made that run counter to public health guidance and scientific knowledge.
In April, the school made headlines when its leadership told vaccinated school employees that they were not allowed to be in contact with any students “until more information is known” and encouraged employees to wait until summer to get the jab.
According to The New York Times, the following week, a math and science teacher allegedly told students not to hug their vaccinated parents for more than five seconds.
The outlet also reported that the school’s other co-founder, Leila Centner, discouraged masking, but when state health officials came for routine inspections, teachers said they were directed in a WhatsApp group to put masks on.
See what others are saying: (WSVN) (The Washington Post) (Business Insider)
Katie Couric Says She Edited Ruth Bader Ginsburg Quote About Athletes Kneeling During National Anthem
Couric said she omitted part of a 2016 interview in order to “protect” the justice.
Kate Couric Edited Quote From Justice Ginsburg
In her upcoming book, journalist Katie Couric admitted to editing a quote from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg in 2016 in order to “protect” Ginsberg from potential criticism.
Couric interviewed the late justice for an article in Yahoo News. During their discussion, she asked Ginsburg about her thoughts on athletes like Colin Kaepernick kneeling for the national anthem to protest racial inequality.
“I think it’s really dumb of them,” Ginsburg is quoted saying in the piece. “Would I arrest them for doing it? No. I think it’s dumb and disrespectful. I would have the same answer if you asked me about flag burning. I think it’s a terrible thing to do, but I wouldn’t lock a person up for doing it. I would point out how ridiculous it seems to me to do such an act.”
According to The Daily Mail and The New York Post, which obtained advance copies of Couric’s book “Going There,” there was more to Ginsburg’s response. Couric wrote that she omitted a portion where Ginsburg said the form of protest showed a “contempt for a government that has made it possible for their parents and grandparents to live a decent life…Which they probably could not have lived in the places they came from.“
Couric Says She Lost Sleep Making Choice
“As they became older they realize that this was youthful folly,” Ginsberg reportedly continued. “And that’s why education is important.“
According to The Daily Mail, Couric wrote that the Supreme Court’s head of public affairs sent an email asking to remove comments about kneeling because Ginsburg had misspoken. Couric reportedly added that she felt a need to “protect” the justice, thinking she may not have understood the question. Couric reached out to her friend, New York Times reporter David Brooks, regarding the matter and he allegedly likewise believed she may have been confused by the subject.
Couric also wrote that she was a “big RBG fan” and felt her comments were “unworthy of a crusader for equality.” Because she knew the remarks could land Ginsburg in hot water, she said she “lost a lot of sleep” and felt “conflicted” about whether or not to edit them out.
Couric was trending on Twitter Wednesday and Thursday as people questioned the ethics behind her choice to ultimately cut part of the quote. Some thought the move showed a lack of journalistic integrity while others thought revealing the story now harmed Ginsburg’s legacy.