Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there'd be a shortage of sand.”     Milton Friedman

May 15, 2008

ICE Sending Drugs Out Of The Country — Inside Deportees

by Brad Warbiany

Our government sure has a strange take on drugs. If you want to take them to get high, or to improve sports performance, or to dull the pain of debilitating diseases, you deserve to be put in jail. But if they’re trying to make someone malleable and complacent, such as schoolchildren, drugs are great!

And, sadly, if they just want you to shut up and get on a plane, they’ll inject you with all manner of dangerous psychoactive medications, just to make their own jobs easier:

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.

By “extra doses” they’re referring to doses several multiples the dose given to people with severe psychotic mental illnesses. Done without a court order, with no apparent need, by people who have greater incentive to keep a deportee quiet than keep him mentally well. Like much of what you see with government, arbitrary power is awarded to people who have little accountability and no incentive to use it wisely.

The United States– a nation which prides itself on its adherence to individual rights– has recently been forced to engage in debates of whether it’s okay to torture enemies, and now whether it’s humane to inject [usually] non-violent illegal immigrants with psychoactive drugs in order to shut them up. And then they have the gall to refer to their intravenous concoction by the euphemism “pre-flight cocktail.” I’ll bet if you try to buy this cocktail in an airport bar, it won’t be on the menu.

There’s a word for this: hubris. Those who would engage in or sanction behavior like this must believe that they are above the law, or that they are the law. They believe that while they wish to control others, they are above the need for control. And, when pressed, you’d likely get most of them to defend their actions as necessary or justified, even if unlawful and immoral.

Thankfully, there has been enough public response to this practice that it is now at least officially forbidden. But at least one known case exists since the policy change to suggest that it hasn’t completely ceased:

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 Elizabeth center, first says Ayoub was not likely to endanger himself or anyone else — then, lower on the same page, says he might. On the next page of the file is another note, this one written two days before his flight, from the psychiatrist in charge of aviation medicine. It says that Ayoub’s case is a “behavioral escort,” not a psychiatric one, and that the nurse “is only to give medications to the patient if he agrees to take them. He will only use involuntary treatment if the patient is at imminent risk of hurting himself or others.”

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 Elizabeth detention center slid two milligrams of the anti-anxiety drug, Ativan, into his left shoulder.

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 New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and boarded the nonstop flight to Egypt.

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.

The records are relatively ambiguous on whether this sedation was necessary. I’d say that a “depressed mood” and “anxiety state” are probably consistent with being forcibly removed from the country you’ve chosen as home and sent back against your will. The description of “crying and screaming” is more severe. After the Kathryn Johnston event, though, I’m not necessarily trusting in the official report. At the very least, the second injection seems much less necessary.

The government gave us the “This is your brain on drugs” advertisement, but they jump to the use of chemical restraints when mechanical restraint would probably be much more humane. It’s clear to me that they simply don’t want to listen to these deportees on an overseas flight, and that the drugs are more about the government’s well-being than the deportees’. This practice is inhumane, morally wrong, and fails to live up to the ideals upon which this nation was founded.

Hat Tip: The Agitator

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4 Comments

  1. Our government sure has a strange take on drugs. If you want to take them to get high, or to improve sports performance, or to dull the pain of debilitating diseases, you deserve to be put in jail. But if they’re trying to make someone malleable and complacent, such as schoolchildren, drugs are great!

    That would be my nomination for “quote of the day.”

    Comment by Stephen Littau — May 15, 2008 @ 4:39 pm
  2. This is an interesting angle (government intrusion) on the Washington Post article series. I’m glad to read your commentary!

    Comment by J. Gomez — May 15, 2008 @ 6:39 pm
  3. Illegal immigrants fleeing Arizona has brought economic prosperity!

    A MUST READ…?

    All law abiding citizens should read this, but not parasite employers
    Read about the successful expedited economic impact of Illegal aliens fleeing Arizona

    http://mensnewsdaily.com/2008/05/15/striking-changes-in-arizona-as-illegal-immigrants-flee-the-state/#comment-62672

    Get your pro-illegal immigrant Democrats to sponsor the Federal SAVE ACT (H.R.4088)

    Comment by Brittanicus — May 15, 2008 @ 7:15 pm
  4. Brittanicus,

    A thought experiment: Imagine if 90% of the population of the Earth suddenly disappeared, leaving everything else intact.

    At first, it would be great; you could move into Donald Trump’s digs, drive a Lamborghini, eat the finest foods of of the finest china.

    It would be great until you had consumed the wealth that had been produced before the disappearance. Then you would be forced to limit your consumption to what you and your fellow 10% could actually produce. Your luxurious life would end, and you would inexorably find yourself enduring a tougher one full of deprivations. Guess which part of the narrative you guys are experiencing right now?

    From the article, it see that much of the “improvement” is in the reduction in shortages in the socialist services provided the state. This is *not* something to crow about. Invariably as a coercive socialist system gets overstressed, the commissars hit upon the idea of reducing demand via violence. After a few short term gains, the system continues its death spiral, since none of the structural causes of the stress (the impossibility of rational provisioning of services – the inherent rigid mismatches between supply and demand) have actually been addressed.

    Comment by tarran — May 16, 2008 @ 5:20 am

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