Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Shocking: U.S. Agency Forcibly Injects Nonviolent, Mentally Healthy Deportees With Powerful Antipsychotic Drugs

It mattered not if a deportee was man or woman or big or small; it mattered not if his illegal presence in the United States was due to overstaying a visa, entering without papers, or being denied political asylum due to his native country not being Cuba (since we know that all the other countries in the world don't imprison, torture, or kill political dissidents, right?) No, if a person was to be deported from the United States recently, there was a good chance that not only would he be shot up with a cocktail of Haldol and Ativan prior to boarding the flight to home (or prison, or death), he'd also quite likely receive numerous "booster shots" en route:

The U.S. government has injected hundreds of foreigners it has deported with dangerous psychotropic drugs against their will to keep them sedated during the trip back to their home country, according to medical records, internal documents and interviews with people who have been drugged.

The government's forced use of antipsychotic drugs, in people who have no history of mental illness, includes dozens of cases in which the "pre-flight cocktail," as a document calls it, had such a potent effect that federal guards needed a wheelchair to move the slumped deportee onto an airplane. [...]

Such episodes are among more than 250 cases The Washington Post has identified in which the government has, without medical reason, given drugs meant to treat serious psychiatric disorders to people it has shipped out of the United States since 2003 -- the year the Bush administration handed the job of deportation to the Department of Homeland Security's new Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, known as ICE.

Involuntary chemical restraint of detainees, unless there is a medical justification, is a violation of some international human rights codes. The practice is banned by several countries where, confidential documents make clear, U.S. escorts have been unable to inject deportees with extra doses of drugs during layovers en route to faraway places.

Federal officials have seldom acknowledged publicly that they sedate people for deportation. The few times officials have spoken of the practice, they have understated it, portraying sedation as rare and "an act of last resort." Neither is true, records and interviews indicate.

I know we're all absolutely sick and tired of hearing about the countless un-Constitutional acts and myriad violations of international law carried out by the Bush administration and its various agencies and private hired guns. I know we're all badly afflicted with a serious case of outrage fatigue--to the point, in fact, where we simply don't want to hear one more thing they've done, or are doing, or plan to do. We just want them gone. We want the nightmare to be over.

But we cannot turn our heads, ladies and gentlemen, not in this case. We are talking about human beings, here, people like you and me. Journalists like Michel Shango:

The first time immigration agents tried to deport Michel Shango, he slammed his head, hard, against the outside of the van that had come to pick him up at Atlanta's city jail. Instead of being driven to the airport, then flown to the Democratic Republic of Congo, he was brought back to the jail so his wound could be tended to.

"I asked him why he feared being returned back to his country," an immigration officer wrote of the incident. Shango, now 42, replied that he had been a journalist and had written articles critical of the Congolese government. "Detainee stated . . . that he might as well die trying to avoid deportation," a second officer wrote, "because they will kill him as soon as he gets to the D.R. of the Congo."

Until early 1996, Shango worked in Congo, ghostwriting articles and supplying information to foreign correspondents about the repressive administration of President Mobutu Sese Seko, he said in telephone interviews from locations in Congo, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, where friends are now helping him hide. Eventually Shango was arrested, he and two of his lawyers said, but he escaped to Canada, then settled in North Carolina, where he started a limousine business with a cousin in Charlotte. He married an American, who at first offered to help him become a citizen. The marriage dissolved. He applied for political asylum. He was turned down.

He was remarried to a Congolese woman by the time immigration officers came to his house at 4:30 one morning in May 2006. As his wife and their three American-born children cried at the frightening scene, the officers led him away at gunpoint.

On Feb. 28, 2007, three months after the first deportation attempt was aborted because of the head-banging incident, seven guards arrived at the Atlanta jail to make a second attempt. Shango glanced at his watch and noted that it was 1:45 p.m. "They pushed me against the wall," he recalled. "They pulled my pants down." His medical log shows that he was given seven shots in his right buttock and right shoulder before he boarded the airplane.

The log says his only psychological problem was "anxiety disorder."

By the time Shango reached Congo, records show, he had been injected with 32.5 milligrams of Haldol and 7.5 milligrams of Ativan. As he was thrown into a prison after he got off the plane, and even as friends helped him escape, he was so disoriented, he said, that he did not fully know where he was. For two weeks, Shango said, "It was like I was dreaming. . . . I started crying, crying, crying all day long. . . . I was like crazy, because [of] the drugs, knocking me down."

One can understand officials needing to restrain, or even sedate, a violent or mentally ill deportee for the protection of those accompanying and transporting him. But in the hundreds of cases studied by Washington Post reporters Amy Goldstein and Dana Priest, it's clear that once again, another of Bush's legacies--the newly-formed Homeland Security agency known as the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE)--has gone too far. Much too far.

(H/T attaturk)

Also at Cogitamus.

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