With the federal government detaining undocumented immigrant children at federal facilities across the country and, there have been an increasing number of reports of children being deprived of basic health services and due process. A group of detained immigrant children, many of whom came to the US to seek asylum, claimed in a complaint that the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) has been blocking them from accessing legal counsel, giving them psychotropic drugs against their will, and discriminating against disabled children.
The lead plaintiff in the case is a 13-year-old Guatemalan child known only as Lucas R. He was brought to a detainment facility in Arizona upon his arrival at the border in February 2018. While he has family waiting for him in Los Angeles—a sister named Madelyn R.—he was later transferred to the Shiloh Residential Treatment Center in Texas. Lucas is currently waiting to be released to his sister.
Lucas’s experience at the Hacienda del Sol Facility in Youngtown, Arizona is a harrowing tale. The 58-page complaint claims that the child “became depressed, fearing that ORR would never release him to his family” during his confinement at the facility. Lucas told the staff about his condition. ORR staff responded by giving him psychotropic drugs to treat his “moderate” depression – a move made with familial consent.
Lucas’s body reacted adversely to the medication, causing the child to suffer persistent stomach aches. As he began refusing to take the drugs, ORR transferred him to Shiloh without giving prior notice or the opportunity to appeal his transfer. There, he received Zoloft for his supposed “major depressive disorder.”
The complaint accuses the ORR of not being “equipped to provide even minimal mental health services or supports to children it places in most shelters.” Plaintiffs also decry the warehousing of youth with disabilities, claiming in doing so, “defendants unlawfully discriminate against youth on the basis of disability.”
The complaint also claims that the ORR’s assessment process “creates an unreasonable risk that youth will be placed in overly restrictive settings against their best interests, subjected to needless restrictions on their personal liberty, and unjustly suffer the trauma and stigma of imprisonment.”
The ORR’s practice of separating children with mental health conditions from other detainees only “exacerbates mental health issues” and leads to further psychiatric treatment after detainment, the class claims.
The ORR placed over 1,100 unaccompanied immigrant children in Los Angeles facilities in 2018, among whom hundreds came to form the proposed class. The children are seeking the certification of their class and declarative judgment against the ORR’s discriminatory practices.
For more updates on this matter, be sure to follow this blog. If you, or a loved one, are among the many families being separated at the border, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the legal team of the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today at (512) 215-5225 to schedule a consultation with Texas immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.