ATLANTA – Today, four survivors of the Stewart Detention Detention Center (Stewart) in collaboration with the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, El Refugio, Georgia Detention Watch, Georgia Human Rights Clinic, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR), Owings MacNorlin, LLC, Project South and the Southern Poverty Law Center, filed an administrative complaint against the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and a male nurse employed by the country’s largest private prison company, CoreCivic, detailing a pattern of sexual assault and retaliation by guards for reporting repeated assaults against people who were detained at Stewart. The complaint details firsthand accounts from a group of survivors who were detained by ICE at Stewart from July 2021 to January 2022 and sexually assaulted by the nurse, while seeking medical care. A press event will also be held:
Who: El Refugio and grassroots community leaders and organizations
What: Press conference by immigrant rights group demanding justice and investigation into Stewart Detention Center
When: Thurs., July 14, 11:00 a.m. EST
Where: ICE Atlanta Field Office, 180 Ted Turner Dr. SW, Atlanta, GA 30303
While in detention, two immigrant survivors notified Stewart officials of the nurse’s behavior. Both survivors submitted multiple reports and were repeatedly threatened with retaliation, legal action, prison time, and prolonged detention. Officers also withheld food from one survivor to discourage participation during internal investigations.
“I’m livid knowing that this man is still working at Stewart after having abused me and so many girls, even when the entire Stewart staff knew what happened,” stated Complainant Viviana Doe. “It scares me so much to see Stewart staff cover up to allow the abuse of so many women, and that the employee who sexually harassed me is still there, exposed to hundreds of women.”
The complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL), DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG), U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division, DHS ICE Detention Ombudsman, DHS ICE Atlanta Field Office and Stewart Detention Center. The four women, through counsel, also submitted licensing complaints against the Nurse with the Georgia Licensing Board seeking disciplinary actions for the nurse’s violations of the rules and laws governing his nursing practice. Advocacy organizations also filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records related to medical care of persons in ICE custody at the Stewart Detention Center.
The allegations against the nurse form part of a series of complaints regarding medical abuse and reckless misconduct at Stewart and other ICE detention facilities. Stewart has long been at the center of multiple investigations surrounding its abusive treatment of immigrants in detention, and is currently under investigation by the DHS OIG. Nationwide, Stewart has the highest reported number of deaths due to COVID-19 of any ICE facility, and the highest reported numbers of COVID-19 cases in ICE detention centers throughout the country. Immigrant rights advocates and civil rights groups issued reports and letters, repeatedly calling for the closure of Stewart and release of people in detention. They highlighted Stewart’s improper use of solitary confinement, numerous deaths from suicide, horrific conditions, forced labor, widespread exposure to COVID-19, failure to follow pandemic response requirements, medical neglect and racial discrimination. Stewart also has been at the center of investigative reports on the use of force by staff of CoreCivic, the country’s largest private prison company.
“I can’t sleep just thinking about so many women being abused by this male nurse, and I don’t understand how they allow that man to keep working at Stewart Detention Center, after all the staff know he is a sexual offender,” stated Complainant Maria Doe. “Why do they continue to cover up his actions? For what purpose? How many more women must be victims of this corrupt center? All I want is for justice to be done and for this man to never abuse more women. They must stop violating the human rights of all women at Stewart. Enough of torturing us!”
Today’s announcement of multiple incidents of sexual assault at Stewart comes after ICE ended its contract with the Irwin County Detention Center (Irwin) in May 2021, following the exposure of medical abuse against migrant women by human rights groups. The transfer of immigrant women from Irwin to Stewart does not resolve the systemic and rampant mistreatment and neglect of people detained in South Georgia detention centers, most recently observed by the Office of the Inspector General in its damning report regarding inhumane conditions at Folkston ICE Processing Center, only three hours southeast of Stewart. This ineffective transfer strategy is underscored by the current complaints of repeated sexual assaults occurring during an active investigation period at Stewart. Immigrant rights groups unite in calling for the immediate closure of Stewart due to flagrant human rights abuses and failure to adhere to sexual abuse policies and procedures.
“It is abominable for the administration to have transferred migrant women to the Stewart Detention Center and to continue to keep them there, knowing full well about the history of well-documented egregious abuse at this ICE prison. It is high time for Stewart to be shut down and for all detained migrants to be released,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, Legal and Advocacy Director at Project South.
"While GLAHR is appalled to hear of the abuse and retaliation that these brave survivors have endured, we are not surprised, given the pervasive history of abuse and human rights violations at detention centers in Georgia. The closure of Stewart is imperative to protect immigrants from further harm," said Adelina Nicholls, Executive Director at the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR).
“These brave women took a huge risk by sharing these disturbing accounts, which unfortunately are not isolated incidents. Rather, they confirm what community organizers, human rights advocates and detained immigrants have warned for years — ICE detention centers are fundamentally inhumane, corrupt and rife with abuse and cover up,” said Monica Whatley, Project Coordinator of the Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative (SIFI) at the Southern Poverty Law Center. SIFI provides pro bono legal representation to detained immigrants at immigration detention centers in the Deep South.
ICE’s continued failure to provide safe and adequate medical care is left unchecked at Stewart. The co-authors of the complaint join the complainants in calling for a thorough investigation of these allegations, the immediate closure of Stewart, release of people currently in detention, reparation and a path to immigration relief in the United States. A Stewart survivor stated, “I, along with the rest of the surviving women who endured this abuse, deserve and demand justice! Let’s stop this aggressor. May we not allow any more victims of sexual assault at Stewart.”
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