RAICES Statement on Irwin Detention Center Whistleblower Complaint

San Antonio, TX – In response to yesterday’s report from whistleblower Dawn Wooten about multiple women at Irwin County ICE Detention Center who were forced to get hysterectomies, among many other detailed complaints of medical neglect, RAICES has issued the following statement.

“We stand with all the survivors of these atrocities, with the Black and brown women in detention who have been protesting these conditions, and with Dawn Wooten for speaking out to demand that ICE be held accountable for its ongoing violations of human rights,” said Erika Andiola, Chief Advocacy Officer. “We know through our own experience as direct legal services providers in Texas that medical neglect and abuse at ICE prisons is rampant. We encourage more staff working at every detention center across the country to follow the lead and courage of Ms. Wooden and speak out about these abuses.”

“We join the local organizations working with these survivors in their call to shut down the Irwin County Detention Center and demand that the Office of Inspector General (OIG) conduct a detailed investigation at the facility and in person,” they continued. “Further, we demand that ICE is held accountable for this and countless human rights abuses against immigrants in detention.”

This is not the first time we hear of such medical negligence for those in ICE custody. RAICES legal staff has worked to defend dozens of women who have come forward with stories about medical neglect. Mrs. Diaz is one of them. Mrs. Diaz requested medical attention after reporting extreme pain, lack of appetite and difficulty in walking. She was only given Ibuprofen after results showed the presence of cysts in her breasts and ovaries. It doesn’t end there.

“We have seen and heard countless stories that mirror much of what was detailed in Dawn Wooten’s complaint,” said Andrea Meza, Director of RAICES Family Detention Program. “Even at the Karnes family detention center, which ICE touts as one of the safest and most family-friendly of its prisons, our clients have reported years of what amounts to at best a culture of indifference in the medical services at Karnes. In 2019 when ICE detained adult women at Karnes, RAICES was working with many clients to expose stories of medical neglect. Before we could coordinate a public campaign, ICE transferred all of the women – around 600 people – to detention centers around the country. We were able to share some of the stories of ongoing medical negligence. For example, one of our clients reported physical and mental distress from sexual abuse she had survived, as well as pain while menstruating. She received an ultrasound and aspirin, but no additional information or follow-up about her health. It concerns me that many of the complaints of the women we work with are similar to those of the women Ms. Wooten encountered. We have met with dozens of women who report ovarian cysts, irregular menstruation, or other reproductive health issues and who do not receive care at Karnes. We have attempted to pressure ICE to provide medical care in many cases. It alarms me that at Irwin, the medical care provided was forced sterilization.”

History shows this is not the first time that forced sterilization has been employed as a tool of white supremacy upon Black, indigenous, and other women of color in the United States. Today, this is done under our watch in immigration prisons across the country. This is why we are calling for every single ICE detention center to be shut down and for ICE to be abolished. We ask the American public to not look away.

Note: Declarations of RAICES clients who have reported medical neglect at ICE detention centers can be made available to members of the press and media. Please use our Media Request Form.