For almost four years in office and since the day he announced his campaign, Donald Trump has systematically dehumanized immigrants. He degrades them with his words and persecutes them with his actions. He has elevated Stephen Miller, a white nationalist, to a position of overseeing all of América’s immigration system, and put anti-immigrant zealots like Chad Wolf and Ken Cuccinelli, neither of whom were appointed legally or confirmed by the Senate, in positions of power.
They have set the tone, the policies and the permission structure. And now, after a sustained campaign of treating immigrants and refugees as less than human, we learn of allegations that women’s bodies are being violated without their permission at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia.
What has been the response from Irwin and from U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)? On September 16th, Pauline Binam, a Cameroonian immigrant who arrived in the U.S. at age 2 and is the mother of a U.S. citizen middle-schooler, was put on flights to deport her. Fortunately, she was taken off of a flight at Chicago’s O’Hare airport after members of Congress like Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee and Pramila Jayapal intervened.
“We cannot let these allegations be treated as just another outrage that fades from view. In América, in 2020, with our tax dollars, we have detailed horrifying allegations of forced sterilizations and hysterectomies being performed on immigrant women in ICE detention. The phrase ‘like an experimental concentration camp’ should shake us to our core.”
Frank Sharry, América’s Voice.
But this is far from an isolated case. As Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) said in a statement: “One woman, Pauline, who was nearly deported this morning, consulted the doctor simply about her menstrual cycle. She was put under for what she was told would be a simple procedure, only to wake up and find that the doctor had removed part of her reproductive organs without her knowledge or consent. Another woman, already deported, apparently went in to see the doctor for a simple condition related to diabetes and ended up having gynecological surgery. Two additional women apparently were shackled to the bed, reported to have had surgical procedures, including one apparent hysterectomy, without any consent.”
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) explained the significance of this systematic dehumanization in a conversation with Chris Hayes on MSNBC on Sept 14: “Women can understand how invasive, how violating a hysterectomy is, particularly an unwarranted one. It deals so much with your personhood. Your worth as a woman. If it is not voluntary. If you have not consulted with your physician…It hit me in my heart, my gut.”
Reps. Jackson Lee and Jayapal and a total of 173 House members issued a statement calling for a full investigation into not only the allegations about the Georgia facility, but into the cruelty and neglect of the entire immigration detention system, much of which is subcontracted out to for-profit firms, like the Georgia facility run by LaSalle Corrections.
“We cannot let these allegations be treated as just another outrage that fades from view. In América, in 2020, with our tax dollars, we have detailed horrifying allegations of forced sterilizations and hysterectomies being performed on immigrant women in ICE detention,” stated Frank Sharry, Executive Director of América’s Voice.
“The phrase ‘like an experimental concentration camp’ should shake us to our core. If we are the civilized nation we claim to be, we must find the truth and uproot this horrific manifestation of the relentless dehumanization and demonization of immigrants and refugees by this president, Stephen Miller and their lackeys at DHS [Department of Homeland Security].
“These allegations need to be taken seriously and investigated fully – by Congress, DHS, and the medical community. This story needs to be aggressively pursued by the media. This must be treated with the seriousness it deserves until we expose the truth, punish those responsible and provide relief to victims.”
In 2015, “No Más Bebés,” an award-winning documentary, by filmmaker and UCLA Professor, Renee Tajima-Peña documented the story of Mexican Immigrant women who were sterilized in the late 1960s and early 1970s, at the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center hospital without their consent or knowledge, often due to coercion and lack of language barriers.
“Unconsented sterilization of women in ICE detention is a new horror, but an old story. In the 1970s, the brave women of the Madrigal 10 were coercively sterilized at LA county hospital. They fought back,” wrote Tajima-Peña in a tweet last week.
In 1975, the “Madrigal 10,” ten of the victims filed a class-action lawsuit, Madrigal v. Quilligan, against the doctors and hospital. Although, the doctors and hospital won the case, minor progress was still made. Madrigal v. Quilligan, was able to help change the state laws to require Spanish translations of the “sterilization” booklet. They also were able to get the California Department of health to create a seventy-two hour waiting period for sterilization.
California Latinas for Reproductive Justice spoke out last week in a statement regarding the recent news about Binam. “The latest news on the forced sterilizations in Georgia at ICE detention centers is enraging, heartbreaking, and absolutely in line with our country’s violent and shameful policies,” stated the reproductive rights organization. “We want to be clear, eugenics and forced sterilizations have never stopped in this country. Black and Indigenous people; the women of Puerto Rico; women of Mexican descent in Los Angeles County USC Hospital; folks in state institutions around the country, including the 20,000 people sterilized under California’s Eugenics law between 1909 to 1979; the hundreds of incarcerated folks that continue to be sterilized, including the 250 confirmed cases who were coercively sterilized in California women prisons without informed consent; and now immigrants in detention.
“Regardless of the year, the violent and unconscionable act of forced sterilization was committed – all have one thing in common – they have taken place in institutions where the lives of Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and people with disabilities were deemed less worthy of reproduction and family formation. Let us repeat, our country and state eugenics policies have not ended. It is time for our legislators to listen and act!”
Portions of this article originally published by América’s Voice. The Weekly Issue/El Semanario contributed to this article.
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