Immigrant children are being forced to take drugs to manage the trauma after being detained and separated from parents, it has been claimed.
According to a lawsuit, youngsters are being routinely and forcibly given a range of psychotropic drugs at US government-funded youth shelters.
Children held at facilities such as the Shiloh Treatment Center in Texas are almost certain to be administered the drugs, irrespective of their condition, and without their parents’ consent, it is claimed.
The Shiloh centre, which specialises in services for children and youths with behavioural and emotional problems, has yet to comment.
The lawsuit was filed by the Los Angeles-based Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law on April 16.
Just days earlier, the Trump Administration introduced its “zero tolerance” policy to separate children from parents who crossed the US-Mexico border illegally.
The President signed an executive order abandoning the policy on Wednesday.
Carlos Holguin, a lawyer representing the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law, said: “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.”
Officials at the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which oversees such centers, were not immediately available for comment.
‘Chemical straight jackets’
The lawsuit warns of the dangers of using medication as “chemical straight jackets,” rather than treat actual mental health needs as taking multiple psychotropic drugs at the same time can seriously injure children.
ORR-run centres unilaterally administer the drugs to children in disregard of laws in Texas and other states that require either a parent’s consent or a court order, the filing said.
The lawsuit seeks a shift in ORR policies to comply with state laws and prevent the prolonged detention of children.
Some youths at Shiloh reported being given up to nine different pills in the morning and six in the evening and said they were told they would remain detained if they refused drugs, the lawsuit said.
Held down and injected
Some said they had been held down and given injections when they refused to take medication, the lawsuit said.
One mother said neither she nor any other family member had been consulted about medication given to her daughter, even though Shiloh had their contact details.