The U.S. says it will stop forcibly drugging immigrants during deportations, nearly seven months after the ACLU of Southern California and the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP revealed shocking details about two immigrants who were given powerful anti-psychotic drugs against their will.

Raymond Soeoth and Amadou Diouf were drugged against their will and without proper medical oversight during attempts to deport them. Neither man had any history of mental illness, yet Soeoth was forcibly injected with the antipsychotic drug Haldol in 2004, causing him to lose consciousness. The drug with which Diouf was forcibly injected in 2006 is unknown.

In a Jan. 9 memo, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency that oversees deportation and detention of immigrants, announced it will require a federal court order before agents may drug immigrants during deportation. Unlike ICE's earlier policy, this one contains no exceptions that would allow the government to circumvent court oversight.

The ACLU/SC and Munger, Tolles said the decision to end drugging was long overdue.

"Drugging immigrants against their will is a shameful practice that has no place in this country," said ACLU/SC staff attorney Ahilan Arulanantham.

Soeoth, a Christian minister from Indonesia, is seeking asylum based on religious persecution. Diouf, a native of Senegal who is married to a U.S. citizen, had a court order preventing his deportation at the time he was drugged. Both men remain in the country while they seek to become legal residents.

This is the second time in the last year ICE has changed course on the drugging of immigrants. ICE first changed its policy two days after the ACLU/SC and Munger, Tolles filed Mr. Soeoth and Mr. Diouf's lawsuit last June. That revised policy continued to authorize forcible drugging without a court order under certain circumstances.

"We are gratified that the government has finally recognized that forcibly drugging immigrants is both inhumane and illegal," said Munger, Tolles attorney Brad Phillips. "We will continue to pursue Mr. Soeoth's and Mr. Diouf's claims for compensation for their mistreatment, and we will monitor ICE's compliance with its new policy."

Last September, ICE chief Julie Myers told a U.S. Senate committee that "I am aware of, and deeply concerned about reports that past practices may not have conformed to ICE detention standards." She admitted that 56 people had been forcibly drugged during a seven-month period from October 2006 to April 2007. Based on data she provided, it appears that hundreds of illegal drugging have taken place over the past five years.

Photos: Raymond Soeoth, an asylum-seeker from Indonesia (top), and Amadou Diouf of Senegal, who is married to a U.S. citizen. Both were forcibly drugged by U.S. immigration officials.

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