Judge: Government Can’t Medicate Migrant Kids Without Parent Consent

The Texas Tribune report indicates that 13 organizations have been hit with very serious allegations since 2014, and kids are still being held in most of them.

Aerial view of immigrant children walking in single file led by youth shelter staff

UPDATE: United States District Judge Dolly M. Gee has ordered President Donald Trump’s administration to obtain parental consent before giving psychotropic drugs to the migrant children being housed in a Texas center.

Gee determined that the federal government was violating the Flores settlement, which dates back to the 1980’s and governs how detained immigrant children are treated, NPR reports.

This move comes after it was revealed that the Shiloh Residential Treatment Center in Manvel, Texas, was administering very powerful psychotropic drugs to children without even so much as an explanation. The drugs given to the kids are intended to treat various conditions including schizophrenia and depression.

In addition to not telling the kids about the medication they were receiving, staff members also allegedly told some children that if they refused to take it their detention periods would be extended. 

Gee’s order requires the government to either get a court order or consent from the children’s parents before giving them the drugs with the only exception being an emergency situation. Additionally, the judge ordered the government to explain to the kids in writing why they’re being held.

The federal judge also ruled that minors cannot be detained solely for “reported gang involvement” and that all kids covered under the Flores settlement must be removed from the Shiloh center unless a licensed mental health professional determines that a child is a potential risk to themselves or anyone else.

While Gee's ruling is aimed at protecting the detained children from future abuses, there should also be some form of disciplinary action taken against the staff members responsible for subjecting them to mistreatment in the first place.

Nevertheless, one step in the right direction is better than none at all. 

UPDATE: More disturbing details about the facilities where immigrant children separated from their parents are being held have come to light.

According to Business Insider, the children are being involuntarily drugged to the degree that they can’t walk, stay awake, or maintain their physical or mental health.

Apparently, a lawsuit regarding how unaccompanied minors are being treated under the United States government’s watch was filed soon after the controversial “zero tolerance” policy was implemented back in April. However, much of the alleged abuse dates back years.

The children and some of their parents described the behind-the-scenes mistreatment, including staff medicating children without informing them what they were being treated for.

"I don't remember if I got anything in writing about their decision but I don't think I had an opportunity to challenge it," one child said. "... I took nine pills in the morning and seven in the evening. I don't know what medications I was taking; no one ever told me that. I don't know what my diagnosis or illness is."

There were also allegedly times when physical force was used to administer the drugs to kids who resisted taking them.

"[I] saw staff throw another youth to the ground, pry his mouth open and force him to take the medicine ... They told me that if I did not take the medicine I could not leave, that the only way I could get out of Shiloh was if I took the pills," a child stated.

The children have also accused teachers of using tranquilizers, verbally abusing them by calling them “sons of a whore,” and taking away their clothes, mattress, and blanket as punishment.

Some of the kids also reported being handcuffed for days on end.

"At Shenandoah, my room had a mattress, a sink, and a toilet ... I was forced to wear handcuffs on my wrists and shackles on my feet for approximately 10 days in a row," one child recounted. 

In another report from The Associated Press that specifically addresses abuse claims against the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center in Virginia, detained teens revealed that they were stripped nude, strapped to chairs with cloth shackles, and had bags placed over their heads that felt suffocating.

"Whenever they used to restrain me and put me in the chair, they would handcuff me," said a Honduran immigrant who was sent to Shenandoah when he was 15. "Strapped me down all the way, from your feet all the way to your chest, you couldn't really move. ... They have total control over you. They also put a bag over your head. It has little holes; you can see through it. But you feel suffocated with the bag on."

From the sounds of it, these are not care facilities or centers. They are prisons. Innocent children are being treated barbarically, and yet the government continues to provide funding to these programs and send kids there. The fact that this has been the lifestyle for thousands of unaccompanied minors over the course of years is utterly sickening. 

Reports have surfaced that the migrant children being separated from their parents at the southern United States border are being taken to shelters with a documented history of abuse.

According to The Texas Tribune, taxpayers have paid more than $1.5 billion in the last four years to private companies facilitating immigrant youth shelters that have been accused of neglect, as well as sexual and physical abuse.

Despite the accusations, the government has continued placing migrant children in the care of these companies. 

The United States Health and Human Services Department has awarded approximately $5 billion in grants since 2003 through the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which mostly went to religious and nonprofit organizations in 18 states to take in children who arrived in the U.S. unaccompanied. In 2014, the program experienced a surge when about 70,000 kids crossed the southern border by themselves.

Now, these shelters are also housing the more than 2,000 children who have been separated from their parents at the border as a result of the current administration’s “zero tolerance” policy.

In one of the facilities in Texas, state inspectors have cited homes with more than 400 deficiencies, some very serious. For one thing, staff members’ appeared to have failed to seek medical attention for injured and ill children as one had a burn, another had a broken wrist, and a third was found to have a sexually transmitted infection. In a different Texas shelter, the staff gave one child medicine that she was allergic to, ignoring the warning on her medical bracelet.

Just last year, a youth care worker at a Florida shelter for migrant youth was sentenced to 10 years in prison after admitting to exchanging sexually explicit photos and texts with minors at the facility.

In 2013, a Guatemalan boy housed in New York was sexually assaulted by an older boy. Although he was treated at a hospital, the details of his attack were withheld from his mother. She claimed she was only told there had been “an incident with a boy.”

Overall, the report indicates that 13 organizations have been hit with very serious allegations since 2014, but the ORR has only terminated its contracts with two of the troubled companies.

If you weren't outraged before about what this policy is doing to innocent children, the details of this report should do the trick. No one should be heartless enough to see and learn of these atrocities and not become infuriated. 

 Thumbnail/Banner Credit: Reuters


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