End ICE abuse and detention of trans women

Roxsana Hernández died in ICE custody on May 25, 2018.

In November, the results of an independent autopsy confirmed what many people had long suspected: Roxsana Hernández Rodríguez, a trans woman from Honduras, was physically abused before her death in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody on May 25, 2018.

Hernández had been imprisoned at the privately owned Cibola County Correction Center in Milan, N.M., which includes a unit for trans detainees.

Now the Washington Blade, a newspaper focused on LGBTQ2S issues, has received confirmation from ICE of the existence of a second detention facility housing 45 migrant trans women, this one in rural Texas, raising concerns for the conditions and safety of these women.

The Blade learned of the facility during an interview with Estuardo Juárez Moscoso of Asociación Lambda, an LGBTQ2S advocacy group in Guatemala, which keeps in close touch with trans people participating in the Central American Exodus — the refugee caravans travelling through Mexico to the U.S. border.

The South Texas Detention Complex in Pearsall, Texas, where the 45 women are detained, is operated by the GEO Group. In Los Angeles, Humanity First, the Harriet Tubman Center for Social Justice and others have held protests against GEO over these prison profiteers’ extensive collaboration with ICE.

According to ICE, there are currently 111 “self-identified transgender individuals” in detention in 20 facilities across the U.S.

Justice for Roxsana Hernández!

The first reports of Roxsana Hernández’s death were bad enough — that she had died of cardiac arrest brought on by complications of HIV, after being held in unhealthy conditions and refused timely access to life-saving drugs and medical care.

Following her detention at the San Ysidro Port of Entry separating Tijuana and San Diego on May 9, Hernández was reportedly held in freezing temperatures and denied adequate food, water and medical care.

Independent autopsy results released by the Transgender Law Center “disclosed evidence of physical abuse,” including deep bruising of the rib cage and “deep contusions extending onto the back.” Hernández also suffered severe wrist injuries from handcuffs.

The cause of death was “most probably severe complications of dehydration superimposed upon HIV infection. … As a consequence of her immunocompromised condition, Ms. Hernández Rodríguez was susceptible to the physiologic effects of untreated dehydration, initiated by severe diarrhea and vomiting.

“According to observations of other detainees who were with Ms. Hernández Rodríguez, the diarrhea and vomiting episodes persisted over multiple days with no medical evaluation or treatment, until she was gravely ill.”

This same racist disregard for human life was echoed in last December’s deaths of two Guatemalan Maya children, Jakelin Caal Maquín and Felipe Gómez Alonzo, who died as a result of preventable conditions — including severe dehydration, extremes of temperature and lack of timely medical care — while in the custody of the Border Patrol.

Roxsana Hernández’s death and the dangers faced by other trans migrants in ICE custody cannot be separated from the epidemic of violence against trans people, especially trans women of color, in the U.S.

At least 28 trans people were murdered across the U.S. in 2018. A report released in January by the New York City Anti-Violence Project and Human Rights Campaign states that almost all were Black and Brown women.

Since 2013, at least 128 transgender people were killed in the U.S. But the real number is likely much higher, since the federal government keeps no official records of trans murders and both police and media frequently misgender the victims.

The revelation of the physical abuse of Roxsana Hernández raises to a whole new level the urgent need for the LGBTQ2S community, migrants’ rights movement and all workers to unite and organize to demand freedom for trans detainees, children, and all imprisoned migrants and refugees.

Free the women at South Texas Detention Complex and all detainees! Justice for Roxsana Hernández!