Judge Orders the Government Stop Drugging Detained Immigrant Kids Without Consent

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On Monday night, a U.S. District Court judge in California ordered the Trump administration stop giving psychotropic medicine to undocumented minors without the consent of their parents or legal guardians, which is a real thing that was happening at one Texas facility.

U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee ruled that the Trump administration must receive parental consent or obtain a court order in order to give psychotropic medicine to minors. She also ordered the government move all children out of the Shiloh Residential Treatment Center in Manvel, TX, with the exception of children who’ve been deemed a risk to themselves or others, and ordered the government explain to children in writing why they were being detained.


Shiloh staff members admitted signing off on administering medications to children without obtaining consent from an adult, according to reporting on Gee’s ruling by the Washington Post. Government officials argued they only administered drugs without the consent of a parent in “extreme” cases, a defense Gee rejected, pointing in her ruling to instances of children being dosed every morning and evening.

According to court filings from the lawsuit made public by Reveal last month, however, children held at Shiloh alleged they were routinely held down and injected with psychotropic drugs and were threatened with not being able to see their parents if they refused to comply. Here’s an excerpt from one of the affadavits from a former Shiloh detainee named Javier C.:

Some of the staff at Shiloh would provoke the children there and make us angry intentionally. They made us act violently so then we had to be given shots. The staff would insult us and call us names like “son of a whore.” They often did it in English but I understood some English so I would know what they were saying and get really angry.


When he would call the medical staff, they would come and give me a shot to tranquilize me. It happened many times. They would give me the shot and then I would start to feel sleepy and heavy, and like I didn’t have any strength. I would sleep for three or four hours and then wake up and slowly start to feel my strength return. When the staff did that, they left me in the classroom near the wall to sleep. I also saw them do that to one of my friends, [redacted].


I wanted to stop taking all the medication they were giving me at Shiloh but when I told the doctors that they told me that I had to continue because it calmed me. I met with two different doctors there; both were men. I said the problem is this place, it makes me angry. I was so scared there, I tried to behave well to get transferred.


Here’s another account from the mother of a child identified as Isabella M., per the Post:

Isabella was prescribed multiple psychotropic medications at Shiloh, including topiramate, without her mother’s consent, according to an April court filing. “Nobody asked me for permission to give medications to my daughter, even though the staff at Shiloh has always had my telephone number and address,” the mother testified.

The mother said Isabella’s anxiety medications were causing her to tremble and feel nervous. Isabella “tells me that she has fallen several times,” her mother testified, “because the medications were too powerful and she couldn’t walk.”

In addition to the drugs, children reported not being able to make private telephone calls and instances of being assaulted when they asked for water. According to the Post, one child referred to as Julio Z. said the staff at Shiloh refused to let him and others get water, and when he tried to get water anyway, he was thrown to the ground by a Shiloh staff member, injuring his elbow. In her ruling, Gee ordered an end to denying children drinking water (seriously) and for Shiloh staff members to allow children to make private phone calls.

The ruling is just the latest setback for the Trump administration on immigration handed down by Gee. On Friday, the judge said during a status hearing that she would appoint an independent monitor to observe the conditions of detained migrant children, in order to “to cut through disputes over what is happening on the ground.”


“There continue to be persistent problems,” Gee said on Friday. “There seems to be disconnect between what both sides see at these facilities.”