LOS ANGELES – Two immigrants fighting deportation claim they were forcibly sedated during aborted attempts to fly them out of the country, their attorneys said.
Raymond Soeoth, 38, of Indonesia, was injected with anti-psychotic drugs in December 2004 while at a Los Angeles detention facility and Amadou Diouf, 31, of Senegal, was forcibly sedated while on a plane, their attorneys contended Tuesday.
"It's horrifying," American Civil Liberties Union attorney Ahilan Arulanantham said. "It's blatantly illegal. You cannot inject people with psychotropic drugs if they are not mentally ill."
The ACLU said it was investigating the incidents, which were first reported in the Los Angeles Daily Journal.
Detainees' privacy rights prevented him from discussing specific cases, Marc Raimondi, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman in Washington, D.C., said Wednesday. A call to the ACLU's Arulanantham to see whether his clients would waive those rights or provide their medical records to The Associated Press was not immediately returned.
Speaking in general terms, Raimondi said that although immigration agents handle deportations, a public health official escorting deportees "decides what care and medical treatment occurs" and that official only administers medication "as a last resort."
Some people being deported are escorted by doctors or nurses who can sedate them if they pose an "imminent risk of danger," said Dr. Tim Shack, medical director for the U.S. Public Health Services Division of Immigration Health Services.
Soeoth is a Chinese Christian who fled Indonesia with his wife in 1999 and sought political asylum. He spent more than two years at the federal detention center on Terminal Island after his asylum request was rejected in 2004 but has been released while his case is appealed.
Soeoth contended that immigration agents told him in December 2004 that he was going to be deported and a few hours later came into a room where he was held, grabbed his arms and legs, pushed him onto a bench, pulled down his pants and injected him.
Medical files indicated that Soeoth may have threatened to kill himself, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday, but Soeoth denied that.
At the airport, airline security officials canceled Soeoth's removal because they were not properly notified by immigration officials, according to his medical file.
Soeoth is being allowed to remain free and in the U.S. while his appeal is pending.
Diouf, who came to the United States in 1996, was ordered deported for overstaying a student visa. He is married to an American citizen and is free pending appeal of his deportation order.
Diouf said he was wrestled to the ground by a medical escort and injected in February 2006 while being deported on a commercial flight. He said he was handcuffed at the time and had asked to speak to the captain of the flight to tell him he had gotten a stay of deportation.
Diouf's medical file said he was not following orders and was "taken to the ground on board the aircraft after being given medication," the Times reported.
Diouf said the captain ordered him and the agents escorting him off the plane.
"That was a pretty humiliating ordeal," he said. "I don't think I was making trouble. I just wanted to speak to the captain."