The Trump executive order will make a bad situation worse in the long run

[UPDATE: If you want to get a\look at the deliberate callousness and cruelty of the government’s behavior, read this sad and infuriating account by a public defender assigned to the detained parents who have been separated from their children.]

It turns out that the government has not only been separating immigrant children from their parents, it may have been been drugging and otherwise abusing them up too, according to a news article based on a report by Reveal of the excellent Center for Investigative Reporting from court filings protesting the practices. A lawsuit has been filed that charges that some immigrant children in detention centers who have been separated from their parents have been sent to shelters with long histories of abuse and are being forcibly injected with drugs to make them docile.

Children held at Shiloh Treatment Center, a government contractor south of Houston that houses undocumented immigrant minors, described being held down and injected, according to the federal court filings. The lawsuit alleges that children were told they would not be released or see their parents unless they took medication and that they only were receiving vitamins.

Parents and the children themselves told attorneys the drugs rendered them unable to walk, afraid of people and wanting to sleep constantly, according to affidavits filed April 23 in U.S. District Court in California.

The report was based on the medical records of the children.

At Reveal’s request, forensic psychiatrist Mark. J. Mills assessed materials from 420 pages of children’s medical records and statements filed in California federal court this April.

“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist here; it looks like they’re trying to control agitation and aggressive behavior with antipsychotic drugs,” said Mills, who practices in Washington, D.C. and was an expert witness for a lawsuit that in 2008 stopped the federal government from forcibly administering antipsychotic drugs to deportees.

“You don’t need to administer these kinds of drugs unless someone is plucking out their eyeball or some such. The facility should not use these drugs to control behavior. That’s not what antipsychotics should be used for. That’s like the old Soviet Union used to do.”

One child was prescribed 10 different shots and pills including the antipsychotic drugs Latuda, Geodon and Olanzapine, the Parkinson’s medication Benztropin, the seizure medications Clonazepam and Divalproex, the nerve pain medication and antidepressant Duloxetine, and the cognition enhancer Guanfacine.

Dosage recommendations at Shiloh gave orderlies what Mills called an unusually wide berth to determine how much medicine to give the children.

And that is not the only kind of abuse that is being alleged.

Allegations included staff members’ failure to seek medical attention for children. One had a burn, another a broken wrist, a third a sexually transmitted disease. In another shelter, staff gave a child medicine to which she was allergic, despite a warning on her medical bracelet. Inspectors also cited homes for “inappropriate contact” between children and staff, including a case in which a staff member gave children a pornographic magazine.

Last year, a youth care worker at a Florida shelter for migrant children was sentenced to 10 years in prison after she admitted to trading sexually explicit photos and text messages with minors at the shelter. That facility later closed but recently reopened under a more than $30 million contractto house 1,000 children.

The ghastly stories go on. They are disgusting but not shocking for a nation like the US that treats people in its custody appallingly.

Meanwhile Trump’s executive order that will now detain immigrant children together with their families not only says nothing about reuniting families already separated (and all indications are that this callous administration is going to do absolutely nothing on that score), it will lead to a new confrontation soon because according to an earlier court ruling known as Flores, children can only be detained up to 20 days. So this order will be challenged after that time. If the courts rule that the children must be released, then Trump can claim that it was the courts that forced the separation of families and not his administration. It is suspected that this is what he wants to happen. Of course, the courts might decide something else.

So as with everything these days, we lurch from one confrontation to the next, with ordinary poor people getting crushed underneath.

I was glad to see Seth Meyers challenge the commonly expressed lament that ‘this is not who we are’ by those appalled at what is going on in the US. He says that we cannot get away from the fact this is indeed who we are, but he softens the blow by qualifying it by adding “at this time” as if this is a recent aberration. But as I wrote just two days ago, that qualification is wrong. This is what the nation has long been. But acknowledging even this limited sense that the nation is not perfect is a start.


  1. says

    The republicans have gotten very fond of the strategy of:
    1) screw something up
    2) complain that it’s “broken”
    3) say it’s too expensive to fix
    4) throw the toys out of the pram and blame Obama/Hillary/the media/the EU
    5) GOTO 1

  2. ridana says

    Of course they have. You go with what works, and has there ever been a time when it hasn’t worked for them? That’s how they got half the country to believe that Republicans are fiscal conservatives while the Democrats are tax and spend (that, and Americans’ ignorance of economic lag times, so that they credit Republicans with the recoveries it took Democrats 4-8 years to fix).

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