The U.S. government has been violating state child welfare laws by giving psychotropic medication to migrant children detained at a Texas holding center, without the consent of the children’s parents or guardians, a federal judge ruled Monday.
As the Washington Post reported Tuesday, the judge, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee, ordered that the Trump administration must obtain consent or a court order before administering psychotropic medications, except in cases of “dire emergencies.”
The Trump administration reportedly says they already give migrant children psychotropic medications only in emergencies or when the child’s symptoms become dangerous. But Gee said children have testified they were being given medication every morning and night, and that such frequency is proof the administration’s claim is false.
Gee additionally ordered that the Trump administration move most children out of the one of the shelters, Shiloh Residential Treatment Center in Manvel, Texas, where staff members have reportedly admitted that they have given children medication without consent. Shiloh is one of a number of shelters contracted with the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to house immigrant children.
Some children who have been deemed by a licensed professional as posing a “risk of harm” to themselves or others will remain at Shiloh.
Reveal News first reported Shiloh’s history of alleged abuse last month. According to the outlet, the shelter has been operating without board certification to treat children for nearly a decade. Reveal’s report also included a timeline of Shiloh’s dark history of troubling reports, including the fact that staff members have tranquilized children for “misbehaving.”
A number of children held at Shiloh, as well as their parents, have testified that they were given drugs without consent or explanation. As the Post reported, one child, Isabella M., said she watched staff members forcibly give medication to other children, recounting one instance in which she claimed staff members pinned a girl down while a doctor injected her.
Another child, Julio Z., reportedly testified that the staff at Shiloh threatened to throw him on the ground and force him to take medication.
“The staff threatened to throw me on the ground and force me to take the medication,” he said, according to the Post’s report. “I also saw staff throw another youth to the ground, pry his mouth open and force him to take the medicine…. They told me that if I did not take the medicine I could not leave, that the only way I could get out of Shiloh was if I took the pills.”
Some children have also allegedly been denied water and not allowed to speak privately over the phone, for “security” reasons, practices judge Gee ordered Shiloh to end. She also ordered the administration to explain to children in writing — and in a language the children understand — why they are being held in a secure facility and ordered that the government cannot hold children in a secure facility only because of alleged gang affiliations.
Gee’s order Monday comes as the government struggles to meet court-imposed deadlines for reuniting the 2,551 migrant children separated from their parents at the border, put in place by a federal judge in June.
The Trump administration has so far reunited all “eligible” families with their children, meeting the court-imposed July 10 and July 26 deadlines on a technicality. But as of July 26, more than 700 of the 2,551 children remain separated from their parents, because their parents have been labeled ineligible for reunification or have been deported, in some cases after reportedly being coerced into signing documents waiving their right to be reunited.