In May ICE said six transgender people had died in detention!
When government leadership at the highest level denigrates and attempts to rob a minority of its rights, especially where such government seems intent on erasure, the entire milieu will become a setup for abuse and violence at every level. After seven months the suspicious death of 33-year-old Roxsana Hernández, in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention, the independently run autopsy has found foul play, confirming widely held suspicion.
Ms. Hernández, a transgender asylum seeker originally from Honduras, was likely brutally abused before her May 25 death, a fact omitted from ICE’s official statement, which dedicated two paragraphs to her apparent criminal record but none to the physical conditions described in the autopsy report:
“Specifically,” states a legal filing from the Transgender Law Center and attorney Andrew Free in response to the medical findings, “forensic evidence indicates she was handcuffed so tightly as to cause deep tissue bruising and struck repeatedly on the back and rib cage by an asp or similar instrument while her hands were restrained behind her back,” with bruising “indicative of blows, and/or kicks, and possible strikes with blunt object.”
Ms. Hernández had been moved from a private immigration facility owned by prison profiteers CoreCivic to a hospital in May, “with symptoms of pneumonia, dehydration and complications associated with HIV,” according to ICE’s statement. But ICE again neglected to mention that, according to the findings of forensic pathologist Kris Sperry, Hernández had been suffering for days.
Back in May of this year, highly suspicious I joined the chorus of objection, and at African HRC we reported the following:
African HRC Joins in the Call to Ice to Release all Transgender DetaineesHow did a Honduran asylum-seeker die of pneumonia, dehydration and complications associated with HIV? All while in ICE detention. ICE must be held accountable and to avoid such a detestable outcome in the future, must release all transgender detainees from detention, forthwith.
Roxana Hernández, aged 33 years, died while in ICE custody. Although she was taken to intensive care, activists are still demanding details surrounding her death.
“Paired with the abuse we know transgender people regularly suffer in ICE detention, the death of Ms. Hernández sends the message that transgender people are disposable and do not deserve dignity, safety or even life,” said Isa Noyola, deputy director at Transgender Law Center (TLC), in a blistering statement released jointly by the organization, Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement and Organización Latina de Trans en Texas.
The statement goes on to note that many detainees are kept in freezing holding cells.
According to ICE, Hernández, who is misgendered by name in the ICE news report, entered ICE custody May 13 in San Diego. She was transferred to El Paso and then Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, New Mexico, where she was housed in the transgender unit.
On May 17, she was admitted to Cibola General Hospital with symptoms of pneumonia, dehydration and HIV complications. She died of cardiac arrest on May 25, according to ICE.
“Consistent with the agency’s protocols, the appropriate state health and local law enforcement agencies have been notified about this death, as have the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General and ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility,” said ICE in the statement.
The agency says Hernández is the sixth detainee in its charge to die this year. This is unconscionable.
LGBTQ advocates have excoriated ICE for what they say is a pattern of abuse against transgender detainees.
“We have been demanding the release of our trans communities detained in ICE detention centers because of rampant physical and brutal treatment from guards and other detainees,” said Jorge Gutiérrez, executive director of Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement.
At African Human Rights Coalition, we condemn ICE’s attempt to demonize Ms. Hernández, their misgendering of her on their public website, especially in the face of her memory, and their mentioning of prior petty crime charges, as an attempt at justification for her death while in ICE custody. We join the chorus of LGBTQI human rights defenders in insisting that all Transgender detainees be released from detention.
Hernández had been moved from a private immigration facility owned by prison profiteers CoreCivic to a hospital in May, “with symptoms of pneumonia, dehydration and complications associated with HIV,” according to ICE’s statement. But ICE again neglected to mention that, according to the findings of forensic pathologist Kris Sperry, Hernández had been suffering for days.
“According to observations of other detainees who were with Ms. Hernández,” she wrote, “the diarrhea and vomiting episodes persisted over multiple days with no medical evaluation or treatment, until she was gravely ill.” The Transgender Law Center’s Lynly Egyes said in a press conference that “if she was lucky, she was given a bottle of water to drink. Her cause of death was dehydration and complications related to HIV. Her death was entirely preventable.”
It’s well documented that LGBTQ immigrants suffer additional abuses while in ICE detention, including higher instances of sexual assault, “prolonged solitary confinement,” and “the withholding of critical health care needs, such as hormone therapy or HIV medication.” According to advocates this past June, an estimated 60 people were being detained in the Cibola County Correctional Center transgender unit where Hernández had been held.
For months, her advocates have been calling for justice, including protesting outside an ICE facility in New Mexico. Now following the autopsy’s official findings, the center and other advocates this week “filed a Notice of Wrongful Death Tort Claim in New Mexico, the first step in holding all parties responsible for Roxsana Hernandez’s death accountable,” an official statement read.
We look forward to punitive measures beyond civil action, as well as reform that ensures the safety of transgender detainees.
TRUMPS THREATS TO ERASE TRANS COMMUNITY HERE.
BY MELANIE NATHAN
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