Clinic Director and Fellow Discuss Allegations of Unwanted Medical Surgeries in Immigration Detention

On October 27th, Clinic Director Stacy Kern-Scheerer and IJC Fellow Nicole Alanko participated in a panel discussion on the allegations of unwanted medical surgeries performed on women at immigration detention centers. Kern-Scheerer and Alanko presented alongside two William & Mary Law School alumni, Shruthi Khetan, LLM ’18 and Gary Godman, JD ’13.  

Immigration Clinic Director Stacy Kern-Scheer speaks to students at the October 27th lunch panel.

The panel was sponsored by William & Mary Law School’s Women’s Law Society, the Immigration Law and Service Society, and the Health Law & Policy Society. 

“I was motivated to spearhead this event after hearing about this terrifying news with the unwanted medical surgeries through the Immigration Clinic,” said Gabby Vance, a 3L currently enrolled in the Clinic. “It made me feel even more moved by the work we do at the Immigration Clinic to provide legal representation.” 

“I spent the better part of my 2L year writing my note on the black maternal health crisis, and have increasingly become more interested in reproductive justice work,” said Ndome Essoka, a 3L who moderated the panel. “Knowing the U.S.’s long and racist history of eugenics and forced sterilization of BIPOC women made me want to learn more about this issue from an immigration law perspective so that I could be a better advocate.” 

Students posed questions to the panelists on a wide range of topics, including potential legal remedies and immigration protections for the victims of these procedures. The panelists also discussed hurdles to access to counsel in immigration detention centers and the importance of oversight of private detention facilities.  

Students reported that this was one of the most well-attended lunch panels they had seen this semester. 

In September 2020, a nurse who worked at an immigration detention center in Ocilla, Georgia filed a whistleblower complaint alleging that women in the detention center were subjected to unwanted hysterectomies. The number of women bringing forth allegations of these unwanted  procedures has continued to rise. As of this writing, those allegations continue to be under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security and on Capitol Hill.