Judge Rules US Must Obtain Consent to Medicate Immigrant Minors

  • Aug 29 2018

Recently, a Federal Judge ruled that the U.S. government must obtain consent before administering psychotropic drugs to immigrant minors who are being held at a secure facility in Texas

Consent a Must Except for Cases of Emergency

In Los Angeles, U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee ruled that excluding cases of emergency, without obtaining parental consent, the federal government must obtain a court order before providing psychotropic drugs to children. She found that the government was in violation of a court decree, the Flores Settlement, which began in the mid-1980’s. The Flores settlement governs the treatment of detained immigrant minors, mandating that the government hold minors in the least restrictive setting possible. Gee also ruled that U.S. officials have an obligation to explain to children in writing why they are in such a facility – that gang affiliation by itself is not a justification for placement.

A ‘Victory’ for the Children

For many of the children being held, confusion and fear has been a common occurrence. “The kids weren’t getting notice of why they were sent away,” explained Holly Cooper, co-director of he Immigration Law Clinic at the University of California. Cooper, whom is also serving as one of the attorneys representing these children, views the Judge’s ruling as a “victory.” More than 10,000 immigrant children are currently in federal custody. Most of them, coming from Central America, arrived by themselves at the US’s southern border.

Immigrant Rights Advocates Fight Back

In light of the divisive “zero tolerance policy” issued by the Trump administration, immigrant rights advocates have fought tooth and nail to chance federal policy. Some of the decisions that they have taken issue with include separating parents from their children. Judge Gee sided with just about all of the advocates’ requests.

Although some issues surround the use of psychotropic drugs at the Shiloh Treatment Center in Manvel, Texas, the conditions of these shelters is overseen by the federal court in Los Angeles. Gee also ordered that children who are covered under the Flores settlement must be removed from the Treatment Center unless a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist determines that the minor poses a danger to himself or others.

Under the U.S. government’s current policy, immigrant children who are caught attempting to cross the border alone are placed in the aforementioned government-contracted facilities until they are either able to be returned back to their country or screened and placed with U.S. sponsors. Although most minors in this situation are placed in non-secure shelters, some are still placed in more secure ones.  The Judge also ruled previously that she would appoint an independent monitor to oversee the facilities within the shelter.

Immigrant and children’s advocates continue to fight for more answers. A separate lawsuit has been filed in the hopes of gaining more insight as to how and when immigrant minors are placed and held in a secure facility.

Posted in: Immigration Law