Welcoming PA Caucus calls for investigation regarding Homeland Security practices

Lawmakers note that if true, allegations mark violation of human rights laws

HARRISBURG, Sept. 17 – Deeply disturbed by reports of the forced sterilization of immigrants by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Welcoming PA Caucus today is calling for the support and cooperation of the federal government with a pending investigation of the practices of the Department of Homeland Security.

“The U.S. has a sordid past of forced sterilization of women and we must do everything in our power to – if true – put an immediate stop to this barbaric practice and hold accountable those who have enabled it,” said state Rep. Sara Innamorato, a co-chair of the Welcoming PA Caucus. “In our nation’s darkest moments, forced sterilization has been used as weapon against enslaved Africans, Native Americans, Puerto Ricans, and against incarcerated individuals, mental health patients, poor and disabled people – a shameful stain on America’s soul. We are calling for an immediate closure of the Irwin Center, for an investigation to be conducted and that those found guilty be held accountable for these atrocities.”

The members of the Welcoming Caucus said it is vital that the facts of the allegations regarding a regular practice of forced sterilization be established and the doctors, wardens and custodians of people in ICE custody be held responsible for their actions.

If true, they noted that these actions would constitute violations of: 1) doctors’ Hippocratic Oath; 2) the U.S. government’s responsibility to care for the physical and mental health of women in its custody; and 3) criminal and human rights laws regarding the rights of women to control their bodies.

“I represented a number of women in my practice who had been forced to undergo abortions against their will and families that were affected and changed forever by the involuntary sterilization of one or both partners in a marriage,” said state Rep. Joe Hohenstein, co-chair of the Welcoming PA Caucus, who practiced immigration law for 25 years prior to entering the Pennsylvania legislature. “I also represented women who were victims of female genital mutilation that often left them sterile or affected their ability to give birth to children safely. For our government to be engaging in practices like forced hysterectomies and performing ‘surgeries’ without a woman’s consent, places the US in the company of some of the most oppressive governments and societies in the modern world.”

The Welcoming PA Caucus is a group of legislators who believe in the welcoming promise of Emma Lazarus’ Lady Liberty to all newcomers. They value the contributions immigrants make to the commonwealth; recognize the need for full integration of all Pennsylvania residents, regardless of status; and advocate for humane and dignified policies that promote economic and social opportunity. Their purpose is to develop commonwealth-specific legislative and policy solutions to the issues affecting all new Pennsylvanians.