Judge Orders Government to Obtain Consent Before Medicating Immigrant Children

By Alfonso Serrano Jul 31, 2018

A federal judge on Monday (July 30) ordered the federal government to seek consent from immigrant parents before their children are administered psychotropic drugs, after a court filing revealed that agency staff at a Texas facility medicated dozens of children without permission.

U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee ruled that the federal government violated parts of the Flores agreement, a 1997 settlement that outlines detention protocols for immigrant children. Gee ordered the U.S. to stop the practice at the Shiloh Residential Treatment Center in Manvel, Texas, except in cases of emergency.

According to the court filing, one child at Shiloh was concurrently prescribed two antipsychotics, an antidepressant and an anti-hypersensative drug—Prazosin, Quetiapine, Sertraline, and Olanzapine. They are a combination of medications that counter professional association guidelines. 

Psychotropic drugs also include Xanax and commonly prescribed antidepressants such as Zoloft and Prozac.

Another child said he was given 16 pills a day—nine in the morning and 7 in the evening—without knowing which medications he was taking or the nature of his illness. Other children described being forcibly held down and injected with drugs, revelations first reported by the investigative outlet Reveal.

Judge Gee also ordered the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is responsible for housing immigrant minors, to move all children from Shiloh into less restrictive housing, except for children deemed by licensed professionals to pose a risk to themselves and others. 

Gee ruled that Shiloh’s 24-hour surveillance and monitoring are "not necessary for the protection of minors or others."

Staff at the Shiloh detention center defended their actions in a statement posted on their website. It reads, in part: "All of the widely distributed allegations about Shiloh were found to be without merit. The children have been found to be properly cared for and treated."

Gee’s ruling comes as another federal judge has ordered the Trump administration to provide information on the whereabouts of hundreds of parents who were separated from their children after implementation of the government’s "zero tolerance immigration policy."

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, who is overseeing the reunification of some 2,500 immigrant children separated from their parents, has given federal officials until Wednesday to locate the parents of 711 children who remain separated from their families. 

At least 431 of these parents have already been deported. The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a lawsuit earlier this year to end family separations, said last week that the Trump administration is doing nothing to find these deported parents.