News (USA)

ICE refuses to release mandatory report on how a trans asylum seeker died in their custody

Roxsana Hernández Rodriguez
Roxsana Hernández Rodriguez Photo: Transgender Law Center

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is refusing to release a report documenting how a trans asylum seeker died in their custody. Autopsy results have shown that the woman died of severe untreated dehydration and was beaten before she passed.

US law says ICE must issue a report within 30 days of a detainee’s death in custody; it has been 188 days since she died. Instead, the government agency says a press release they issued previously saying she had died of complications from pneumonia would constitute their report.

Instead of issuing the report, the agency has started an attempt to smear the forensic doctor who performed the autopsy.

Roxsana Hernández Rodriguez was looking for a better life when she came to America seeking asylum. She was fleeing brutality in her native Honduras but died at the hands of the for-profit prison industry who held her captive since her arrival.

Related: Dozens of LGBTQ asylum seekers in the migrant caravan have arrived at the border

She was being held in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in New Mexico operated by the second-largest private prison company in the United States, CoreCivic.

“Accountability dies in the darkness that they’re creating,” Lynly Egyes, litigation director at the Transgender Law Center, told INTO reporter Kate Sosin. “They’re claiming that they have this review or that she wasn’t abused in custody, but aren’t submitting the information to those who are requesting it.”

Sosin reveals that they were emailed information about Dr. Kris Sperry meant to discredit the doctor. The email came from ICE officials. ICE pointed out that Sperry resigned as Georgia’s chief medical examiner after it was revealed he was moonlighting as a paid forensic consultant.

“ICE can take issue with the events that led to his resignation,” said Free, noting that Sperry has not been disqualified as an expert in the field. “But they have not taken issue with his science, and the reason they haven’t is because he is a sound scientist.”

“A review of Hernandez’s death conducted by ICE Health Service Corps medical professionals confirmed that she suffered from a history of untreated HIV,” ICE wrote in an on-the-record statement provided to INTO.  “At no time did the medical personnel treating Ms. Hernandez at Cibola General Hospital or Lovelace Medical Center raise any issues of suspected physical abuse.”

“Pursuant to policy and as outlined in the agency’s announcement of her passing, a thorough investigation of this incident by the appropriate parties is being conducted in order to affirm that ICE protocols were followed,” Jennifer D. Elzea, ICE press secretary, told the outlet. “The results of the review, once completed, will be available via FOIA.”

The agency is federally required to issue a preliminary public report within 30 days of a detainee’s death and finalize it within 60 days.

“Trans people in my neighborhood are killed and chopped into pieces, then dumped inside potato bags,” Hernández Rodriguez said in an interview with Buzzfeed News a month before her death. “I didn’t want to come to Mexico—I wanted to stay in Honduras but I couldn’t… They kill trans people in Honduras. I’m scared of that.”

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