Sept. 15 (UPI) -- Human rights groups and a whistle-blower are condemning the Trump administration for the treatment of migrants at a holding facility in Georgia, where they say there's been incidents of negligence and abuse -- like forced hysterectomies for women.
The Government Accountability Project and Project South filed complaints Monday against the Department of Homeland Security. They're based on concerns reported by Dawn Wooten, a nurse who worked at a private detention center in Ocilla, Ga., that housed migrants for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The complaint joined Georgia Detention Watch, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights and South Georgia Immigration Support Network in a broader report that outlined their concerns to the Department of Homeland Security inspector general.
Wooten, who provided direct care for migrants at the center, said they were frequently and intentionally denied medical care -- including those who showed symptoms of COVID-19.
Wooten said the facility failed to isolate possible coronavirus patients and didn't quarantine any migrants in close vicinity who may have been exposed to the disease. The complaints also say the center failed to maintain acceptable levels of hygiene and sanitation in exam rooms and declined to provide personal protective equipment to medical and correctional staff.
"Ms. Wooten's whistle-blowing disclosures reveal not only gross mismanagement from [the facility's] leadership, but actions that deliberately put the health of detainees, workers, and the public at risk," Government Accountability Project attorney John Whitty said in a statement.
"It is up to DHS to heed the warnings of employee whistle-blowers like Ms. Wooten and take action to enforce protective measures against the rampant spread of COVID-19."
In its complaint, Project South said some migrant women were given hysterectomies without their consent and had expressed confusion about the procedures. The complaint said hysterectomies, a female sterilization procedure, appeared to be encouraged by at least one physician.
Project South said the Ocilla detention center has a history of hysterectomies that concerned staff there.
"I've had several inmates tell me that they've been to see the doctor and they've had hysterectomies and they don't know why they went or why they're going," Wooten said.
"And if the immigrants do understand what they're getting done, some of them a lot of times won't even go, they say they'll wait to get back to their country to go to the doctor."
The Homeland Security Department did not immediately respond to the complaints.