Roxana Hernández, a transgender woman from Honduras who died in the custody of ICE last Friday. Photography: Courtesy of José Gutiérrez, Source: The Guardian
Roxana Hernández, a transgender woman from Honduras who died while detained by ICE on May 25. Photography: Courtesy of José Gutiérrez, Source: The Guardian

Roxana Hernández, the transgender immigrant who died in ICE custody

Roxana Hernández, a Honduran immigrant who was part of the so-called Caravan of Refugees, died in ICE custody after being subjected to confinement in low…


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After weeks of walking in the blistering sun, fleeing the violence of her country and convinced of being able to finally obtain a better life in the United States, one of the members of the so-called Caravan of Refugees met her death in the custody of U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Her name was Roxana Hernández. She was a 33-year-old transgender woman from Honduras. She was fleeing her country due to the risk that her gender identity presented in Central American countries.

As she explained to BuzzFeed in an interview before leaving Mexico, Hernández said that "she had contracted HIV after being gang-raped while walking home in her neighborhood."

"Trans people in my neighborhood are killed and chopped into pieces, then dumped inside potato bags," she said then.

According to the ICE report, Hernández allegedly died of "complications related to HIV after a five-day detention." But according to groups of immigrant rights activists, the complications could have been the result of her confinement in what is often referred to as "the icebox,” ICE detention facilities known for their low temperatures.

The report of the organization in charge of the Caravan, Pueblo Sin Fronteras, explained that "Hernández requested asylum at the port of entry of San Ysidro on May 9," then she was arrested and taken to the facilities.

In addition to the temperatures to which she was subjected, Hernández did not receive adequate food or medical assistance and was locked in a cell where "the lights were turned on 24 hours a day," Buzzfeed explained.

On May 16, she was transferred to the transgender unit at the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, New Mexico, which works in conjunction with ICE.

The next day, Hernández had to be transferred to the County General Hospital and then to Lovelace Medical Center in Albuquerque, where she "remained in intensive care until her death on May 25."

Following her death, the LGBT community and activists have launched campaigns on her behalf through the hashtags #JusticeforRoxana and #AbolishICE, and the Transgender Law Center (TLC) described the treatment to which she was subjected as "negligent", also issuing a statement with a list of demands, "including that ICE stop detaining transgender women altogether,” The Guardian reported.

"If you have an incoming immigrant that shows signs of medical distress - including being HIV positive and having pneumonia - it is negligent to place them in 'the icebox' for any amount of time," said Flor Bermúdez, legal director of TLC. "They might have wrongfully caused her death.”

ICE issued a statement declaring that Hernández had tried to enter the United States on three previous occasions, and was deported "every time".


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