Death of Trans Woman in ICE Detention Highlights Need for Action

May 30, 2018
2:25 pm

On Tuesday, Latino Rebels received the following media release from the Transgender Law Center (versión en español aquí):

Transgender Law Center (TLC), Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement (Familia:TQLM) and Organización Latina de Trans en Texas (OLTT) mourn the death of a transgender asylum seeker who died while in ICE custody at the Cibola Correctional Facility. Roxana Hernández, a transgender woman from Honduras, was only 33 years-old when she died while incarcerated in immigration detention. Although she was processed into the United States on May 13, 2018, it is unclear where and in what conditions Ms. Hernández was held for the five days she was in custody until she was transferred to ICE. It has been repeatedly reported that asylum seekers at the border are held in freezing holding cells (often referred to as “hieleras”) for days. Ms. Hernández died from medical complications with pneumonia.

“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.

“It is alarming that transgender communities continue to face transphobic violence outside and inside of detention walls,” says Flor Bermudez, Legal Director at Transgender Law Center. “This is why TLC’s Trans Immigrant Defense Effort (TIDE) has organized to demand the liberation of transgender women from detention and the end of all detention and deportations. ICE has shown time and again it is incapable of protecting transgender women in detention. Transgender people should not be detained by ICE at all.”

“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 a time when we are grieving the murders of transgender women of color, and the murder of 20 year-old Claudia Patricia Gómez Gonzalez by Border Patrol at the Texas-Mexico border, it is unconscionable that a transgender woman would die in the hands of ICE at the Cibola trans pod in immigration detention. The community, now more than ever, needs to organize to protect our most vulnerable, in particular transgender immigrant women who are surrounded by violence on a daily basis,” added Anandrea Molina, President of Organización Latina de Trans en Texas.

Transgender immigrants often seek asylum, withholding of removal or protection under the Convention Against Torture because of violence, rape and torture they have experienced in their countries of origin due to their gender identity or expression. However, once inside the United States, transgender immigrants may often face similar risks, as well as criminalization, as they are targeted and harassed by police or held in detention where they experience violence, discrimination, and an inability to access to medical care, all of which may lead to dire consequences.

TLC, Familia:TQLM, and OLTT demand:

  1. ICE adopt and immediately implement a policy against detaining transgender people. DHS cannot continue to hold transgender immigrants in deplorable and inhumane detention conditions and waste millions of dollars detaining a vulnerable population that is overwhelmingly eligible for relief.
  2. DHS must exercise discretion and parole all LGBTQ undocumented immigrants and those with life-threatening medical conditions.
  3. Defund and dismantle ICE and Customs and Border Protection.
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