By Emily Cox
According to a new lawsuit, U.S. government youth immigration detention centers are routinely and forcibly giving migrant children a range of psychotropic drugs to manage the trauma of detention and separation from their parents in some cases.
The Los Angeles-based Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law filed the lawsuit April 16. This was mere days after the Trump Administration introduced its “zero tolerance” policy to separate children from parents who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. Amid public and political outcry, Trump abandoned the policy Wednesday.
According to the lawsuit, immigration detention centers like the Shiloh Treatment Center in Texas indiscriminately administer the drugs to essentially all children, regardless of their condition and without their parents’ consent.
“If you’re in Shiloh then it’s almost certain you are on these medications. So if any child were placed in Shiloh after being separated from a parent, then they’re almost certainly on psychotropics,” said Carlos Holguin. He is one of the lawyers representing the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law.
Serious Health Implications of Immigration Detention Centers Drug Policies
According to the filing, taking multiple psychotropic drugs simultaneously can seriously injure children. This highlights the dire necessity for oversight to prevent these centers from using medications as “chemical straight jackets” rather than to treat real mental health problems.
Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) centers are blatantly disregarding state laws that require either a parent’s consent or a court order when they unilaterally administer these dangerous drugs to children.
The lawsuit hopes to incite a shift in ORR policies to comply with state laws and prevent the prolonged detention of children.
Some migrant children at Shiloh have reported receiving up to nine different pills each morning and six at night. They said officials told them that they would remain detained if they refused the drugs. Some even recounted being held down and given injections when they refused to take the medications, according to the lawsuit.
One mother said that Shiloh never consulted her or any other family member about medications it was giving to her daughter even though the center had their contact information. Another mother said her daughter received such potent anti-anxiety medications that she collapsed several times.