Immigrant Rights News - Thursday, May 15, 2008
Immigrant Rights News – Thursday, May 15, 2008
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1. Desmoines Register: Town of 2,273 wonders: What happens to us now?
Town of 2,273 wonders: What happens to us now?
By GRANT SCHULTE, JENNIFER JACOBS and JARED STRONG • email@example.com • May 14, 2008
Twenty-nine Agriprocessors Inc. workers have been arrested on charges that include aggravated identity theft and the false use of Social Security numbers, federal officials said Tuesday
Those arrested Monday include 314 men and 76 women. Fifty-six detainees - mostly women with young children - have been released under the supervision of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. Most were required to wear an electronic monitoring device around one ankle.
Officials with ICE and the
Those not charged are being held under "administrative arrest" as alleged illegal immigrants. More initial appearances before a magistrate judge are scheduled for today.
Number of detainees surprises mayor
Agriprocessors, the nation's largest kosher meat-processing plant, has employed 968 workers. Officials have said they believe as many as three-fourths of the workers were using fraudulent Social Security numbers.
Postville Mayor Bob Penrod said that he and others in town suspected there were illegal immigrants working at Agriprocessors, but that "nobody had any idea it would be that many."
The detainees included 290 who claimed to be Guatemalans, 93 Mexicans, three Israelis and four Ukrainians. Twelve juveniles were among those detained, six of whom have been released, federal officials said.
The 12 juveniles were plant employees, officials said. Of the six who remained in detention, federal agents were seeking "responsible adults" to take custody of them, said Claude Arnold, the ICE special agent in charge.
At a Tuesday morning news conference in
Customs and law enforcement agents worked through the night processing the detainees,
The detainees' initial appearances Tuesday were held in the Electric Park Ballroom, an old-school music hall that has been transformed into a temporary courtroom. A portable trailer will serve as another makeshift courtroom.
"The plans went very well,"
He did not expect anyone to be detained at the
Officials say detainees eat Hy-Vee catered meals
Those workers charged with criminal offenses would be transferred to custody of the
Asked about rumors that people were being housed in pens in the cattle barns, ICE spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez shook her head.
"They hold proms here," she said. "This is a place for conferences and other events. Everyone is being treated humanely within the rule of law."
Everyone has three meals a day catered by Hy-Vee plus an evening snack, and access to telephones, medical teams, showers, recreational activities, and a list of free legal services, Gonzalez said.
But immigration rights volunteers, who are keeping a steadfast lookout for any possible problems, said that detainees had not yet had access to lawyers of their choosing, and that they they'd heard some people were not given supper Monday.
Ben Stone, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, said the organization has gathered information indicating that detainees have not been given adequate time to meet with attorneys "and that defense attorneys are being overwhelmed (with) requests to represent far more clients than is advisable - or perhaps even ethical."
Nationally, ICE agents arrested 863 people on criminal charges in 2007 and detained more than 4,000 people - a tenfold increase from five years earlier, according to the agency's Web site.
A total of 697 complaints and warrants were issued for the
"This literally blew our town away"
Dummermuth declined to comment about possible charges against supervisors, managers or owners at Agriprocessors, citing the ongoing investigation.
Federal papers released Monday detailed several eyewitness accounts of employee abuse.
Company officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The plant appeared to resume limited operations Tuesday morning. A company representative near the entrance could be heard talking about "today's chicken kill."
The man said company executives had no comment. "They don't want to talk to anybody," he said.
The Postville plant opened in 1987 by Hasidic Jews who wanted to move near the product, and remains owned and operated by Aaron Rubashkin and his two sons.
The company processes and packages kosher meat and poultry products under the Aaron's Best brand. Nonkosher meats include the Iowa Best Beef brand.
The plant is one of largest employers in northeast
Christina Drahos, an accountant and president of the Postville Chamber of Commerce, said the town is in fairly good shape economically, because of the meatpacking plant and because farmers are receiving high prices for their crops.
She predicted the town, which has 2,273 residents, would survive. "Postville is a community that comes together, and that probably is our biggest asset," she said.
Some businesses are feeling the raid's effect more than others. The town's largest landlord, GAL Investments, rents 130 apartments, duplexes and houses for about $450 to $800 per month. Almost all of the tenants are Guatemalan or Mexican immigrants who work at the plant, said Theresa Fravel, the office manager.
She worried that even those who weren't arrested will flee. "Some people have actually packed up and left town," she said.
Jeff Abbas, who runs KPVL, a community radio station, said immigrants are vital to the town.
"If you talk to the average Joe on the street who grew up here, they'll say, 'Yeah, they'll be back in a week,' " he said. "But I don't think they'll be back in a week."
Postville's school Superintendent David Strudthoff said about a third of the elementary and middle school's 363 students were absent Tuesday. Most of them are Latino, he said. Only three of the high school's 15 Latino students were in school Tuesday. He said the school district's future is unclear.
"We had 10 percent of our entire community arrested in 12 hours," he said. "We're into new territory here in Postville that's never been seen before. It's just like having a tornado that wiped out an entire part of town."
If Agriprocessors closes its doors, "it'll be a ghost town here," said Penrod, the mayor. "It's not like Swift in
This article includes contributions from Ken Fuson in
Some Detainees Are Drugged For Deportation
Immigrants Sedated Without Medical Reason
by Amy Goldstein and Dana Priest |
Page A1; May 14, 2008
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.
"Unsteady gait. Fell onto tarmac," says a medical note on the deportation of a 38-year-old woman to
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,
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.
Records show that the government has routinely ignored its own rules, which allow deportees to be sedated only if they have a mental illness requiring the drugs, or if they are so aggressive that they imperil themselves or people around them.
Stung by lawsuits over two sedation cases, the agency changed its policy in June to require a court order before drugging any deportee for behavioral rather than psychiatric reasons. In at least one instance identified by The Post, the agency appears not to have followed those rules.
In the five years since its creation, ICE has stepped up arrests and removals of foreigners who are in the country illegally, have been turned down for asylum or have been convicted of a crime in the past.
If the government wants a detainee to be sedated, a deportation officer asks for permission for a medical escort from the aviation medicine branch of the Division of Immigration Health Services (DIHS), the agency responsible for medical care for people in immigration custody. A mental health official in aviation medicine is supposed to assess the detainee's medical records, although some deportees' records contain no evidence of that happening. If the sedatives are approved, a
After injecting the sedatives, the nurse travels with the deportee and immigration guards to their destination, usually giving more doses along the way. To recruit medical escorts, the government has sought to glamorize this work. "Do you ever dream of escaping to exotic, exciting locations?" said an item in an agency newsletter. "Want to get away from the office but are strapped for cash? Make your dreams come true by signing up as a Medical Escort for DIHS!"
The nurses are required to fill out step-by-step medical logs for each trip. Hundreds of logs for the past five years, obtained by The Post, chronicle in vivid detail deviations from the government's sedation rules.
An analysis by The Post of the known sedations during fiscal 2007, ending last October, found that 67 people who got medical escorts had no documented psychiatric reason. Of the 67, psychiatric drugs were given to 53, 48 of whom had no documented history of violence, though some had managed to thwart an earlier attempt to deport them. These figures do not include two detainees who immigration officials said were given sedatives for behavioral rather than psychiatric reasons before being deported on group charter flights, which are often used to return people to
Even some people who had been violent in the past proved peaceful the day they were sent home. "Dt calm at this time," says the first entry, using shorthand for "detainee," in the log for the January 2007 deportation of Yousif Nageib to his native
In one printout of Nageib's medical log, next to the entry saying he was calm, is a handwritten asterisk. It was put there by Timothy T. Shack, then medical director of the immigration health division, as he reviewed last year's sedation cases. Next to the asterisk, in his neat, looping handwriting, Shack placed a single word: "Problem."
When he landed in
"Every time I tried to force myself to speak, I couldn't, because my tongue was . . . twisted. . . . I thought I was going to swallow it," Ade, 33, recalled in an interview. "I was nauseous. I was dizzy."
As he was being flown back to
Ade was in the hotel for four days before the effects of the drugs began to abate.
Part of a prominent Nigerian family, Ade asked The Post to identify him by only a portion of his name to protect their reputation. He had come to the
After finishing his sentence, Ade was living in Atlanta, and was two semesters away from a telecommunications degree at DeVry University, when immigration officers came looking for him one day in January 2003. They wanted to deport him for the old crime. He called his probation officer to ask whether he could wait to surrender until he took his upcoming final exams. But when he went to the probation office, immigration officers were there to arrest him.
His records offer little explanation of why he was sedated. The one-page medical record in his file mentions one condition: chronic nasal allergy. The log of his trip does not mention mental illness; in the space to list current medical problems, a nurse wrote merely that Ade was anxious.
His drugging, however, fits a pattern that emerges from the cases analyzed by The Post: The largest group of people who were sedated had resisted attempts to deport them at least once before.
One summer day in 2003, deportation officers arrived at the rural
"I can't be deported," he replied. "I have a wife I love very much." Besides, he told them, he was still appealing his immigration case. He shouldn't have to leave, he protested, until the judge had ruled. That day, he was returned to
A few weeks later, the officers came back and again took him to a holding cell in
Ade was being held down, he recalled, when he noticed a nurse "with a needle and a bottle with some kind of substance in it." He said he told the guards: "Okay, fine, fine. If it's going to be like this, don't inject me. I will go on my own free will."
The nurse went ahead, the log shows, injecting him in the left shoulder with two milligrams of a powerful drug, Haldol, used to treat psychosis, and one milligram of an anti-anxiety drug, Ativan. He was injected with two more rounds, as well as a third drug, in progressively larger doses, during the trip.
The effects of those injections are what alarmed Ade's father after the plane landed in
His family's doctor, who visited him on each of the four days his father hid him in the hotel, had a different view. "He was groggy -- somebody under the influence of drugs or drunkenness," recalled Olakunle Adigun, a general practitioner. He couldn't figure out what sedatives his patient had been given, so he tried to detoxify him with saline infusions.
Ade's pulse was dangerously low, and when he tried to walk around the hotel room, "he leaned on the wall," Adigun said. "He was talking, but a slurred kind of speech."
* * *
Internal government records show that most sedated deportees, such as Ade, received a cocktail of three drugs that included Haldol, also known as haloperidol, a medication normally used to treat schizophrenia and other acute psychotic states. Of the 53 deportees without a mental illness who were drugged in 2007, The Post's analysis found, 50 were injected with Haldol, sometimes in large amounts.
They were also given Ativan, used to control anxiety, and all but three were given Cogentin, a medication that is supposed to lessen Haldol's side effects of muscle spasms and rigidity. Two of the 53 deportees received Ativan alone. One person's medications were not specified.
Haldol gained notoriety in the
For people who are not psychotic, said Philip Seeman, a
The only circumstances in which small amounts of Haldol are appropriate for non-psychotic people, Seeman said, are when a person comes into a hospital emergency room violent and agitated from an overdose of a drug such as PCP, or when someone with severe dementia is delusional or combative. "You or I wouldn't get it if we were emotionally upset," he said.
In addition, Seeman said, typical doses to help psychotic patients accustomed to the drug are perhaps five to 15 milligrams a day. Several deportees were given a total of 30 milligrams, which Seeman characterized as "really high," especially for people who have never taken the drug before.
Even when used for its intended patients, people with psychosis, Haldol has drawn warnings from the
"Pharma non grata" is the way Emergency Medicine News magazine described the drug after the FDA alert.
Beyond the specific drugs used, Rodley said, is a deeper question: "What is the least intrusive means of restraint consistent with the human dignity of the person? . . . I'd be very surprised if the injection of disabling chemicals against somebody's will that affect one's psychological well-being . . . is likely to be the least intrusive means."
Asked to explain the reason for using Haldol and other psychotropic drugs with people who are not mentally ill, ICE responded, "The medications used by Aviation Medicine are widely used in psychiatry." Agency officials said that medical escorts administer "the lowest dose possible." Combining Haldol and Ativan "allows you [to] use less of each," they said, and produces a quicker and longer sedative effect.
In the years before Ade was drugged, there had been an internal debate within the
Near the end of the
Another memo went further, concluding that it could be done only if a federal judge gave permission in advance. "[R]egarding detainees who are not mentally ill," the November 2000 document said, "involuntary medication of such persons for the sole purpose of subduing them during deportation, without a court order, is not supported by any legal authority and raises ethical issues, as well.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and after the Bush administration assumed a tough new stance on immigration in its campaign against terrorism, the Justice Department still sounded wary about drugging deportees. In March 2002, a Justice lawyer laid out two options. One choice, he wrote, was to "seek a court order . . . in every case where the alien's medication is not therapeutically justified." The other choice was to create a regulation to grant immigration officials explicit permission to sedate deportees, perhaps including safeguards that would give people a warning that they might be medicated -- and a chance to object.
Top immigration officials chose neither. Instead, in May 2003, just after ICE was created, they internally circulated a new policy: "[A]n ICE detainee with or without a diagnosed psychiatric condition who displays overt or threatening aggressive behavior . . . may be considered a combative detainee and can be sedated if appropriate under the circumstances."
Under that policy, scores of people have been sedated every year since then, usually with heavy psychotropic drugs.
Some countries forbid the practice. The medical files for several deportees recount disputes between
Immigration guards and a public health nurse ran into trouble in May 2004, during a stopover on a trip from
The last booster was given shortly before the plane landed in
Immigration guards and a nurse had more trouble during another deportation to
He had been given 15 milligrams of Haldol, as well as the two other drugs, by the time the flight reached
Once at the station, one of the guards asked a French officer "where we could inject the detainee when needed." First, they were shown into a private area. But five minutes later, the nurse's report says, "a superior French police officer approached and informed me that any type of involuntary injection was strictly forbidden in
Six hours later, the entourage returned to the boarding area for the flight to
"I asked the French police if the ramp on the gate would be an appropriate place to medicate," the nurse wrote. "The French police's reply was that it was strictly forbidden." The plane's captain came over to say that he would not allow the deportee onto the flight. The guards and the nurse flew him back to
Five weeks later they tried again, and this time, they reached
* * *
One deportee who was sedated last year had convictions for armed robbery and assault. Another kept telling immigration officers, "I am God." But many of those injected with psychotropic drugs, records show, are neither violent nor mentally ill. They simply do not want to go home.
"[M]ild anxiety and agitation" is how a deportation log describes Remmy Semakula's state on the afternoon he was taken from his cell in the
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
"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
Until early 1996, Shango worked in
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
The log says his only psychological problem was "anxiety disorder."
By the time Shango reached
* * *
Of all the detainees who have been forcibly drugged, only two have drawn much public attention. Neither, in the end, was deported. And compared with other deportees, neither got large doses of sedatives. But publicity about their cases sent shock waves through the immigration bureaucracy. Raymond Soeoth, a Christian minister from
On Dec. 7, 2004, he was injected in the left buttock with five milligrams of Haldol and four milligrams of Cogentin before being taken to the airport. As it turned out, his deportation was canceled before takeoff because immigration officials had not alerted airline security in
Amadou Diouf came to the
Eleven months later, as he was still appealing his case and, according to his lawyers, had a court order blocking his deportation, immigration officers came for him and took him to the airport for the trip back to
At first, records show, Diouf, now 32, was calm. He was already sitting in a window seat, 4A, when he demanded to speak to the plane's captain. He "became more agitated, anxious and loud in his dialogue," according to the medical log. A nurse said he would be given "some calming medicine," but when Diouf saw the needle, he lunged. Guards "proceeded to take down the detainee to the ground" in the plane's galley, and the nurse injected him with five milligrams of Haldol, two milligrams of Ativan and two milligrams of Cogentin.
At that point, the guards and nurse called off the trip. Diouf was returned to his cell. In early May 2007, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California was drafting a lawsuit on behalf of Soeoth and Diouf and told a local newspaper, the Los Angeles Daily Journal, about their sedations. Across the continent, inside the immigration health division's headquarters in downtown
The next day, the chief of psychiatry for the division's aviation medicine branch dispatched a memo. "I have stopped all planned non-psychiatric behavioral escorts, of which 10 are currently planned," he wrote, until government lawyers "have formalized policy in regards to this type of escort activity."
A month and a half later, the medical escort rules were changed. Except in psychiatric cases, according to a confidential June 21 memo from ICE, the health division "must have a court order to assist. . . . [ICE in] removal of problematic detainees." In January, the language was made even stronger: "DIHS may only involuntarily sedate an alien to facilitate removal where the government has obtained a court order. There are no exceptions to this policy."
The newest rules were issued less than three weeks before the government tentatively settled the lawsuit with Soeoth and Diouf, who are now out of custody. The government is no longer trying to deport Soeoth; Diouf is still fighting to remain in the country.
How well the government is following its new rules is unclear. Asked how many court orders the government has sought, immigration officials said that none "have been issued to involuntarily sedate an alien for removal purposes," but they declined to discuss whether any requests are pending.
In one known case in which government lawyers sought a court order, they withdrew the request after a congressman intervened. On Oct. 1, a federal judge in
One week after the government filed its motion, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), a former judge, wrote to the court, saying he had "grave concerns" about the government's desire to medicate his constituent to deport him. "Mr. Neza fled
Last March, after Gohmert had spoken about Neza's case with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and after he had introduced legislation to block Neza's deportation, the issue was dropped.
* * *
In at least one instance since the rules were changed, the government apparently drugged a deportee without permission from a judge. Maher Ayoub, now 44, was sent back to
Ayoub had thwarted the first attempt to deport him, a few months earlier, by sitting in a van and demanding all the paperwork in his immigration file. He said he spent the next three months in segregation in an
His record offers contradictory evidence about whether there was psychiatric justification for the drugs he got, though it seems to suggest that there was not. A one-page "patient summary" for Ayoub says "Med/Psych Alert Documents: None." His medical escort log labels him a mental health case and says he had a "depressed mood" and an "anxiety state."
A handwritten note in his escort file, from a psychiatrist who saw him at the
That is not what happened.
"Detainee tearful and wringing hands," his medical log begins. An hour later, it says: "Detainee increasingly agitated and resisting clothing change. Detainee is now crying and screaming" at two guards. A nurse at the
Immigration officials said his deportation was "consistent" with the June policy that allows medication only when a detainee "may be a risk to himself or others."
"I was feeling my head was leaving my body," Ayoub remembers. "I was losing control over my body." He was groggy but awake when he arrived with guards and the nurse at
Before the plane took off, he remembers, he called over a flight attendant and "asked them to tell the pilot I didn't want to leave." The nurse stuck a needle into his right arm this time. That injection put him to sleep.
Staff researcher Julie Tate and database editor Sarah Cohen contributed to this report
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