A federal judge has ruled that the Trump administration’s Office of Refugee Resettlement must get parental consent before staff can medicate migrant children with psychotropic drugs, except in an emergency.
U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee on Monday found that the treatment of the children being held at the Shiloh Residential Treatment Center in Manvel, Texas, violated the Flores agreement, a 1997 legal settlement that provided protections for detained children. She also ruled that the agency’s staff must explain to the children in writing why they’re being detained.
The agency’s staff has been drugging detained child migrants with psychotropic medicine without their parents’ consent, according to legal filings reviewed by HuffPost last month.
One child cited in the lawsuit reported taking up to 16 pills per day without knowing what the medication was. Other children recounted being thrown to the floor or having their mouths pried open. Some said they were told that their detention times would be prolonged if they didn’t take the drugs.
“When youth object to taking such medications, ORR compels them,” according to a memo filed in the lawsuit. “ORR neither requires nor asks for a parent’s consent before medicating a child, nor does it seek lawful authority to consent in parents’ stead. Instead, ORR or facility staff sign ‘consent’ forms anointing themselves with ‘authority’ to administer psychotropic drugs to confined children.”
The treatment of child detainees has been spotlighted by President Donald Trump’s administration’s zero tolerance policy that separated migrant families at the border. Although thousands of migrant children were already being housed in detention facilities prior to the policy, the addition of children torn from their parents has given the treatment of minors greater importance.
A series of lawsuits claim widespread abuse of child detainees. One 16-year-old named Keylin said Border Patrol guards would kick her throughout the night and made girls “strip naked” in front of them.