updated 1/11/2008 10:04:05 PM ET 2008-01-12T03:04:05

U.S. immigration officials have told their agents not to sedate deportees without a court order, according to a memo obtained Friday by The Associated Press.

The change in policy was announced internally Wednesday and came after a federal lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union. The change is effective immediately, according to the memo.

"Field officers may no longer request a medical escort ... in order to administer involuntary sedation to facilitate an alien's removal unless the government has obtained an order authorizing sedation from a federal district court," wrote John Torres, detention and removal director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

A spokeswoman verified the memo's authenticity.

"The directive is consistent with ICE's commitment to maintain safe, secure, and humane conditions for those in our custody," said spokeswoman Virginia Kice. "Medical sedation will only be considered as a last resort."

To get a sedation order from court, officials must show deportees have a history of physical resistance to being removed or are a danger to themselves.

"There are no exceptions to this policy," the memo said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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