ICE sued for drugging immigrant detainees while trying to deport them

CNN, Oct. 12, 2007

Lawsuit: ICE drugging detainees set for deportation

From Thelma Gutierrez

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) — Former detainees of Immigration and Customs Enforcement accuse the agency in a lawsuit of forcibly injecting them with psychotropic drugs while trying to shuttle them out of the country during their deportation.

One of the drugs in question is the potent anti-psychotic drug Haldol, which is often used to treat schizophrenia or other mental illnesses. Doctors say they are required to see patients in person before such drugs are administered.

Two immigrants, Raymond Soeoth of Indonesia and Amadou Diouf of Senegal in West Africa, told CNN they were injected with the drugs against their will.

Both are plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union against the government. They are seeking an end to the alleged practice and unspecified damages. Watch why the former detainees claim abuse

Dr. Paul Appelbaum, a professor of psychiatry, law and ethics at Columbia University, reviewed both men’s medical records for this report and was stunned by what he discovered.

“I’m really shocked to find out that the government has been using physicians and using potent medications in this way,” said Appelbaum, who also serves as a member of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.

“That is the sort of thing that would be subject to a malpractice claim in the civilian world.”
The allegations of ICE forcibly drugging deportees were raised last month by Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, during the re-nomination hearing of ICE chief Julie Myers.

“The information the committee has received from ICE regarding the forced drugging of immigration detainees is extremely troubling, particularly since it appears ICE may have violated its own detention standards,” Lieberman spokeswoman Leslie Phillips told CNN in an e-mail.

“Senator Lieberman intends to follow up with ICE to ensure that detainees are not drugged unless there is a medical reason to do so.”

ACLU attorney Ahilan Arulanantham, who is representing Soeoth and Diouf, said, “It would be torture to give a powerful anti-psychotic drug to somebody who isn’t even mentally ill. … But here, it’s happening on U.S. soil to an immigrant the government is trying to deport.”

Responding to Lieberman’s written questions, Myers said 1,073 immigration detainees had “medical escorts” for deportation since 2003.

From October last year to the end of April this year, she said 56 received psychotropic medications during the removal process. Of those, 33 detainees received medication “because of combative behavior with the imminent risk of danger to others and/or self,” she said.

“First, I am aware of, and deeply concerned about reports that past practices may not have conformed to ICE detention standards,” Myers said.

She added no detainee should be “involuntarily medicated without court order,” except in emergency situations.

But both Soeoth and Diouf say they had not exhibited any combative behavior.

Soeoth, a Christian minister from Indonesia, spent 27 months in detention awaiting deportation after his bid for political asylum was rejected. Hours before he was to be sent back home on December 7, 2004, he says guards injected him with a mystery drug that made him groggy for two days. See the document that shows Soeoth was injected

“They pushed me on the bench, they opened my pants, and they just give me injection,” he said through broken English.

He says he was taken to Los Angeles International Airport while in this drug-induced stupor, but two hours before takeoff, airline security refused to transport him, so ICE agents returned him to his cell at Terminal Island near Los Angeles. Terminal Island, once a federal prison, is a crowded facility along the ocean where hundreds of illegal immigrants await deportation.

Soeoth’s medical records indicate he was injected with Cogentin and Haldol, even though those same records show he has no history of mental illness.

In the records, the government says he was injected with the drug after he said he would kill himself if deported — a remark Soeoth denies ever making.

ICE said in a written statement it couldn’t respond to specific allegations due to pending litigation.
“Department of Homeland Security law enforcement personnel may not and do not prescribe or administer medication to detainees,” the ICE statement said. “Only trained and qualified medical professionals, including officers of the U.S. Public Health Service, may prescribe or administer medication.”

But, Diouf says, he was injected on the plane right before he was to be deported. He said he even had a federal stay of his deportation — and the paperwork to prove it — but his U.S. government escorts wouldn’t let him show it to the pilot of the plane preparing to fly him out of the country. See Diouf’s stay of deportation document

That’s when, he says, “I was wrestled to the ground and injected through my clothes.”

A government report says he was medicated because he did not follow orders.

In both cases, Diouf and Soeoth remain in the United States pending a decision in the case. If they lose, they may land back in the hands of ICE, once again facing deportation.

Soeoth says he’s traumatized by what happened. “I know this country [is] very generous to immigrants,” he says. “What they did to me was very, very bad.”

8 Responses to “ICE sued for drugging immigrant detainees while trying to deport them”

  1. 1 Voice of Detainees October 16, 2007 at 1:28 pm

    To Whom It May Concern.
    This letter is on behalf of all the inmates at the Elizabeth Detention Center in Elizabeth, New Jersey. This “prison” or “detention center” is run by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). We have written this letter because of the mistreatment treatment from CCA Officers and the problems that this center has. First of all, the CCA officers here have chosen a career working with the public. They have an option to work here or not, and we are sure that there is no job requirement that states that they must treat people like animals as they do. Many of the officer are obnoxious and rude. They constantly curse at inmates and put them down. We already have very low self-esteem because of being in custody for immigration issues, why make us feel even worse? These officers are misusing their power. Since we are in custody and not working, our families are having difficulty putting money in our accounts for phone cards, writing material and most importantly snacks. The officers who are working and receiving a paycheck come to us and ask us for chocolate bars, coffee and other snacks. Some officers also bring their personal life to work and take their frustrations out on us. They constantly give us and our family who come to visit us attitudes. They sometimes abuse their power and don’t allow us to practice our religion. Numerous times, inmates had to stop praying because an officer ordered them too. In the middle of the night, the officers congregate in dorms, talk loud and constantly slam doors making it very uncomfortable to sleep. They have no decency.
    Another issue here is commissary. Everything is overpriced to the fullest extent. For example, a radio which costs $2-$3 costs us $26 to purchase from commissary. We are not working and our families are suffering and being torn apart because the CCA is trying to make even more money off of us! As for the snacks, most of them are expired or soon to be expired. Not only are we being charged more for items, but they are also expired items! Sixty to seventy percent of the soda, chips and other snacks are already expired before we get them. In many instances, bird droppings have been found on soup boxes and bags of chips. They ban us from having many things, even pencils. Those who are in criminal jails are allowed to have more things than us and WE are not criminals! According to ICE policy for detainees, it states that the facility is required to give us writing material at no cost. It seems that the CCA does not want to follow that rule. They charge us for pens, paper and envelopes. Pens cost $0.30 each, a stamped envelope costs $0.51 and a notepad costs $0.90. What happened to writing material at no cost?
    The phones here are a serious issue too. They calls are too expensive and the lines have very poor quality. There are only 2 phones for every 44 people. A lot of us need to call lawyers to discuss our cases and we cannot do so because it is to expensive to make phone calls. Local calls are so expensive, imagine how much they are charging us for international calls! We are paying at least $20 a week just to be able to speak to our relatives or lawyers for only 10 minutes.
    As for the food here, the issues vary from day to day. The food is usually overcooked. The trays that we are served in are not clean. The portions are too small. If you are still hungry, they DO NOT ALLOW you to take an extra tray. They would rather throw out all the food than allow us to have a little more to fill us up. If we are in visitation or religious services during meal time, they do not save any hot lunch for us, they just throw it out. We are lucky if we are allowed to get a cold lunch when we come back from visitation.The food has no flavor and they do not give us salt and pepper. It seems that they want us to starve.
    According to immigration laws, they can hold people for 90 – 180 days, but for some reason some people have been here for years. Some people in this facility have been here over a year. This facility was not made to accommodate people for over a year. There are no exercise rooms or recreational activities administered here. An hour in a room with 3 holes in the ceiling should not count as outdoor rec. The room is dirty and dusty. Why are we not allowed to have fresh air? Why are we not allowed to see the sun? The air-conditioning system always leaks water on our beds. We have complained many times but they never do anything about it. Some dorms have mold growing which is not healthy for us to breath in. Again, complaints have been made but no one does anything about it. There have also been instances where insects were found. We are the ones who are required to clean our dorms. They make us clean the bathroom, shower area, toilets, mop and dust. Whenever inspectors, investors, or government officials come to see the facility, they make us clean more so that the rooms can be spotless. They also treat us better in front of these people. Little do they know, it is all a show so that their facility can pass inspection or so that they gain another investor! There have also been times where they have shut down water in dorms for long hours. During this time, we have no water to drink, or to wash up. Some days there is no soap for us to wash our hands or shower with. The bathroom or dorm has no ventilation. The bathroom is also open into the dorm. Imagine how the room smells when people go to the bathroom! Disgusting! We don’t know how they clean our clothing either. There have been many times when they return our laundry with more stains on it, stains that weren’t there when we gave them our dirty laundry. The razors that they give us seem to be old and reused. They tell us that they are new but there are times where we have found hair in them before we even use them, this is hazardous to our health. The dorms are always cold. Now that the weather is cooler, they have not turned down the AC. The officers walk around with jackets but as for us, we are not given that. We are always cold, especially at night. They do not allow us to have extra blankets to keep warm.
    A major issue here is medical care. The response time is very poor. It take 4 – 5 days to be admitted for medical care. The medical facility is less than 100 feet away from the dorms, why does it take so long to get help? The nurses have attitudes and make judgments on our health without even checking us. It also seems that the nurses or medical staff are not trained. They hand out the wrong medicine. Technically this is considered malpractice which is a serious offense, but i guess that rule does not apply to us. No matter what problem you are having, they always give you aspirin. It seems that is the easiest way to get rid of us. There is also no way to get dental care here at this facility. If you have a toothache, they resort to giving us pain killers or the option of pulling out the tooth! There was a case where a woman had so much pain from a toothache that she was constantly crying out loud and requesting help. Instead of getting a dentist to help her, the CCA officers put her in the Special Housing Unit (SHU) which is supposed to be used for people with mental health problems or it is used as punishment for those with poor behavior. Was she supposed to be punished for having a toothache?
    We are not criminals and we do not pose any harm to anyone. When we are taken out of the facility to go to our countrys’ embassy, they handcuff our hands and feet when leaving the vehicle. This is very embarrassing for us when people look at us while we are walking from the vehicle to the building. We are escorted through airports also wearing hand and foot cuffs, portraying us as terrorists in front of people at the airport. People get scared when they see us and this also makes us psychologically weak and is very emotional for us. As for being deported, there have been times where inmates have missed their flights because of CCA officers. Detainees are kept in caged vehicles with no food or access to restrooms for 8 or 9 hours until another flight is available.
    Here at the facility, there is one television per dorm which houses 44 people. We are not allowed to control the TV. The CCA officers are the only ones that can change the channel. They always keep it on spanish TV which is unfair to many of us who speak english and are not of spanish descent. They restrict us to having only 3 books or magazines. This is ridiculous. They barely give us recreational time, what do they expect us to do during count time for 30 – 45 minutes when we must stay by our beds. How many times can we possibly read the same 3 books or magazines?
    Sometimes they allow us to work in the facility. They pay us $1.00 a day if we work. We can work for hours but they still only pay $1.00 a day. Are we not even allowed to get minimum wage? We can’t even buy a plastic cup or a safety soon with $1.00.
    What about our families who come to visit us. The visitation area only has 12 booths for the male detainees and 6 booths for female. There are 300 detainees here, many of which are male, are 12 booths enough for them for visitation? Sometimes there are so many people waiting outside on line to come to see us and they cannot because there is no room in visitation. On those days, we are not given a chance to see our loved ones. In criminal jails, they allow conjugal visits, but as for us, we pose no harm to the public, instead of granting us conjugal visits, they make us talk to our relatives through glass windows and telephones.
    The biggest issue here is Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE). People wait for months before they are told the real reasons why they are detained here. Sometimes, deportation officers don’t show up for months to answer some of the detainee’s questions. When we do ask questions, we are given vague answers like “YOUR CASE IS PENDING” or “BE PATIENT”. ICE officers run away when we have questions pertaining to why were housed there, when or if we will be able to go home, or why we aren’t being given custody reviews after our 90 day period has passed. As for information to help us, there are documents posted on walls with phone numbers and addresses to our embassies. Many of this information has not been updated, most of the address and phone numbers are incorrect, making it impossible to get in touch with our native countries embassy.
    We are suffering here and no one wants to listen to us. No one wants to hear what we have to say. We cannot complain to ICE or the CCA because if we do, they treat us even worse. The United States should be ashamed at the way they are treating us humans. THANK YOU FOR READING TO WHAT WE HAVE TO SAY.

  2. 2 tony October 22, 2008 at 8:11 am

    the whole world might not be aware of what is happening, but it is more sirious then what it looks, many of the different egencies took a stronghold after 2001 sept 11. it was meant to be that way. one thinh is taking place while the world is intertained . the devil’s government is trying to control the world. and by that I mean the head guys are causing things that would help them meet their agenda. example 911 it was a setup that gave the bad government more authority to supervise not just our land but the make other egencies to control local governments and it also open the doors for system to supervise other nations. the system is being tested on humans because at the end anyone that those not agree with the system will be force to obey it. …. with the word terrorist in people’s brain anything the dutie government want’s to label as that can. and people will believe. the systen is trying to get everything ready for antichrist. u all will see as it develoops that why human rights are going away because evil is in control at the head. I m sure we have good senators in the usa. but good can only do so much. turn your life to God is the best u can do.

  3. 3 mark isaacs December 28, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    i was in new Mexico and they were drudging detainees there,

  1. 1 A letter from the Elizabeth (NJ) Immigrant Detention Center « SF Gray Panthers Trackback on October 16, 2007 at 4:27 pm
  2. 2 Exposing the Business of Immigrant Detention - CCA | No Borders and Binaries Trackback on September 22, 2008 at 7:43 am
  3. 3 Pelosi Suggests Permanent USA Slave Class | Dems Wishy-Washy on Enacting Humane Immigration Reform | The Unapologetic Mexican Trackback on October 23, 2008 at 11:32 am
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