A lawsuit filed by the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law in Los Angeles, CA on Apr. 16, 2018 alleges that immigrant children being detained at youth centers overseen by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ (DHHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) are being routinely forced to take a psychotropic drugs such as Haldol and Prozac without the consent of their parents. Specifically cited in the lawsuit is the Shiloh Treatment Center in Manvel, TX and Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center in Verona, VA.1 2 3
“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,” said attorney Carlos Holguin of the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law.1
According to a report by Reuters citing the lawsuit, the centers operated by the ORR “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” and that some of the children had said they had been “held down and given injections when they refused to take medication.”1
In some cases, they said they were restrained and forcibly medicated.3
Another report by the Business Insider citing the lawsuit notes that, “These drugs, allegedly prescribed often and without parental consent, can have serious and permanent side effects and many of them weren’t FDA-approved for use by children.”2
Reuters also reported that the lawsuit states that a mother of one of the detained children said that neither she nor any other member of her family had been asked to give their consent prior to officials at Shiloh administering drugs to her daughter and that another mother said her daughter was given “such powerful anti-anxiety medications she collapsed several times.”1
During a visit to the Southwest Key shelter for infants in McAllen, TX, pediatrician Nathalie Quion, MD observed:
The parent is not involved at all in making those decisions, and that is what is scary for me. Taking away the parental rights—which is basically what is happening—is just prone to a lot of abuse.3
The Los Angeles Times reports that attorneys for the U.S. Justice Department have said that the ORR has the authority to give the drugs to the children without parental consent because they are in the custody of the agency.3
Other news sources have additionally reported that the detained children are being vaccinated.4 5 6 It is unclear which vaccines are being given. It is also unclear whether parents are being consulted, although it is unlikely given the Justice Department’s apparent position on the extent of the ORR’s authority over these children.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Vaccination Program for U.S.-Bound Refugees states that it “offers” one to three doses of 13 vaccines, depending the age of the person, including: hepatitis B, rotavirus, Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type B), PCV-13 (pneumococcal conjugate), DPT (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis), polio, Td (tetanus, diphtheria), and MMR (measles, mumps, rubella).7 It is not clear if parents of immigrant children detained at youth centers overseen by DHHS give their informed consent to the administration of vaccines to their children or if some or all the children are vaccinated without parents’ knowledge or consent.
2 Chan TF. Migrant children say they’ve been forcibly drugged, handcuffed, and abused in US government detention. Business Insider June 21, 2018.
3 Hennessy-Fiske M. Lawsuit alleges improper medication of migrant children in federal shelters. Los Angeles Times June 21, 2018.
4 Miller ME, Brown E, Davis AC. Inside Casa Padre, the converted Walmart where the U.S. is holding nearly 1,500 immigrant children. The Washington Post June 14, 2018.
5 Aguilar J. Trump administration opens tent city near El Paso to house separated immigrant children. The Texas Tribune June 15, 2018.
6 Radin D. Local Experts Weigh in on Migrant Children Housed in San Diego. NBC Universal June 19, 2018.
7 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccination Program for U.S.-Bound Refugees. CDC.gov.