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U.S. settles immigrant drugging suit

  • Story Highlights
  • Government settles case with two immigrants who said they were forcibly drugged
  • Amadou Diouf says he was injected on plane; it was a "horrible experience"
  • Diouf will receive $50,000 from U.S.; Indonesian immigrant gets $5,000
  • Lawyer: "What happened here is really awful by any measure"
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By Wayne Drash
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(CNN) -- -- Amadou Diouf, an immigrant from Senegal, says U.S. agents injected him with drugs against his will as he was about to be deported in February 2007.


Raymond Soeoth, pictured here with his wife, will receive $5,000 and be allowed to stay in the U.S. for at least two years.

He and another immigrant who made similar claims sued the government, leading to a change in policy that sharply restricts the way such drugs are used against detainees.

Diouf, who came to the United States from Senegal to get a college education, said he went through something no immigrant should have to endure. But in the end, he's satisfied with the outcome.

"To the extent that whatever happened to me is not going to happen to other people, it was well worth it," he told CNN by phone earlier this week.

Diouf spent nearly two years in detention for overstaying his student visa, and in late February 2007 was put on a plane for deportation. Diouf said he had a federal stay of his deportation in his hand on the plane, but his U.S. government escorts didn't care. See Diouf's stay of deportation document

He was wrestled to the ground and injected through his clothes, he said. At the time, the federal agents said they administered the drugs to sedate him because he wouldn't follow their orders, a claim Diouf denies.

"That was a horrible experience," he said. "That experience alone was worse than the two years that I stayed in detention."

Immigration and Customs Enforcement reached a settlement with Diouf and Raymond Soeoth of Indonesia on Monday. As part of the agreement, Diouf will receive $50,000; Soeoth gets $5,000 and will be allowed to stay in the United States for at least two more years.

Just last month, ICE changed its policy and in the future must seek a court order for authority to administer drugs to people being deported.

Soeoth's medical records indicate one of the drugs used on him was called Haldol -- which is often used to treat schizophrenia or other mental illnesses -- although he had no history of mental illness. It's not clear what drug was injected into Diouf.

The government did not admit wrongdoing or apologize in its settlement.

Drug Facts

• Haldol is a drug used to treat psychotic disorders and symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions and hostility "to control muscular tics of the face, neck, hands and shoulders"
• Side effects of the drug can include seizures, tremors, irregular heartbeat, difficulty breathing and other symptoms

Source: National Institutes of Health

"The settlement does not constitute an admission of any wrongdoing or liability by the government," ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley told CNN. "We agreed to settle the litigation because the agency believes that the resulting agreement is in the best interest of the government."

She added that the settlement and new policy underscores "our commitment to maintaining safe, secure and humane conditions for those in our custody."

Ahilan Arulanantham, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who represented Diouf and Soeoth, called the settlement a "tremendous victory."

"What happened here is really awful by any measure," he said in a telephone interview. "Here we have routine immigration cases -- people with no sense of danger, no violent pasts or anything -- and the government was actually forcibly drugging them. And that's really awful."

The government has previously acknowledged that 56 people facing deportation received psychotropic medications in 2006 and 2007.

"Now, they're not going to do that. We're very, very happy about that," Arulanantham said.

Although the government didn't admit wrongdoing in this case, Arulanantham said the settlement and new policy are about as close to an apology as one can get.

John Torres, the director of ICE's detention and removal operations office, said in a government memo dated January 9 that the new policy on forcible injections means agents can no longer request a medical escort to "administer involuntary sedation to facilitate an alien's removal" unless the government first obtains a court order.

"There are no exceptions. Emergency or exigent circumstances are not grounds for departures from this policy," he said in the memo.

Diouf had attended California State University, Northridge, and later married a U.S. citizen. He was detained on March 29, 2005, for overstaying a student visa.

Diouf, whose deportation to Senegal is on appeal, said his perception about America as a great country has not changed despite what happened.

"I do want to stay," he said.


Soeoth, a Christian minister from Indonesia, and his wife recently lost their immigration appeal and were within days of being deported when the settlement was reached. He and his wife are still seeking political asylum.

"If we don't have the opportunity to stay in the U.S., this gives us time to find another country that will take us," he said in a written statement. "From the first time we talked about filing this case, we didn't want other people to have to go through the same experience. I feel like we won because the government changed its policy." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Immigration PolicyU.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement

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