ACLU Suit Alleges Deportees Were Drugged
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
LOS ANGELES, June 19 -- Two immigrants were held down and forcibly injected with sedatives by immigration officials who were attempting to deport them, the American Civil Liberties Union charged in a lawsuit filed Tuesday.
The class-action complaint targets the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Division of Immigration Health Services, an agency of the U.S. Public Health Service that contracts with ICE to provide medical services. The division is already facing lawsuits charging that it provides inadequate medical care to detained immigrants.
Both plaintiffs in Tuesday's lawsuit claim they declined sedatives that were offered to them when immigration officials sought to deport them, but they were injected with a powerful antipsychotic anyway.
According to the lawsuit, Raymond Soeoth, a 38-year-old Indonesian national, was in a Los Angeles area immigrant detention center in December 2004 when the authorities told him he was about to be deported. Soeoth asked to call his wife and make arrangements in Indonesia but was denied, said his attorney, Ahilan Arulanantham.
A note in Soeoth's medical records states that Soeoth said, "I'm not ready to go," and told officers he would not board an airplane. Another note indicates that Soeoth may have been a suicide risk, which his lawyer says is untrue.
Immigration agents injected him with the sedative, antipsychotic drug Haldol, according to his medical records. Soeoth's deportation was canceled by airline security because they had not been notified by immigration authorities, records show.
The other plaintiff, Senegalese immigrant Amadou Diouf, 31, was put on a commercial flight at Los Angeles International Airport in handcuffs, his medical records show. Diouf protested that he should not be deported, then asked a flight attendant in French to speak to the captain. Medical escorts wrestled him to the floor of the airplane and injected him, the lawsuit states.
The captain asked them to leave, and Diouf was sent back to detention. Both men are now free while their immigration cases are on appeal, their attorney said.
Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for ICE, said decisions about immigrants' medical care are made by the U.S. Public Health Service, which "does not involuntarily pre-medicate or sedate a detainee solely to facilitate removal efforts, unless authorized by a judge's removal order."
She added: "When ICE is carrying out the removal order of an immigration judge, our officers are responsible for the safety of the alien and members of public who come into contact with the alien on a commercial flight."