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LGBTQ Activists Denounce Trans Woman’s Death Under ICE Custody

Roxsana Hernandez Vigil ICE
Carmen Cornejo
Written by Carmen Cornejo

People die under Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody. They are not criminals. They are not “animals.” They are the poorest of the poor and the most vulnerable, whose only transgression is the ambition to live a better life, free of strife.

Immigrant rights and human rights organizations are denouncing the recent death of Roxsana Hernandez, who was part of the migrant caravan of Central Americans. She died while in ICE custody, one more example of the culture of cruelty in the Department of Homeland Security under the Trump administration.

We reported about the caravan here on Lacey and Larkin Frontera Fund, along with the difficult process of seeking asylum that migrants are confronting nowadays.

Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest civil rights organization fighting for LGBTQ rights, along with Phoenix’s Trans Queer Pueblo, are calling on DHS to conduct an investigation into the death of Roxsana Hernandez.

Trans Queer Pueblo held a moving vigil to honor Roxsana on Wednesday, June 6 in front of ICE offices in Central Phoenix.

According to a report from CNN and ICE officials, the 33-year-old died from cardiac arrest in a hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico after spending two weeks in ICE custody. The Honduras native was one of the 25 transgender and gender non-conforming individuals who, since April 2018, made the trek from Central America to seek asylum in U.S.

According to news reports, she arrived on May 9 at the San Ysidro port of entry near San Diego, California, where she was detained.

In spite of her request for asylum, she was held in custody for two weeks and was waiting to be deported when her health started to fail.

Activists for immigrants and the LGBTQ community have denounced the conditions she was subjected to during her detention, such as placement in freezing cold rooms called “hieleras” and lack of appropriate food or medical attention. They believe Roxsana died as a consequence of mistreatment and medical neglect.

News reports state that she was suffering from HIV.

“We have a lot of sadness and frustration,” said Karyna R. Jaramillo, a spokeswoman for Trans Queer Pueblo, “because all the mistreatment continues to happen. ICE and police agencies continue to abuse the immigrant community, especially trans people. ICE puts LGBTQ people in “el hoyo”- ‘the hole’ (solitary confinement cells), and they do not have the capacity to respect us and treat us like real persons who may be suffering from HIV or other physical and psychological ailments during detention.”

“We have to dismantle ICE. They are making a lot of profit from us, filling their quotas at the detention centers,” says Karyna.

Karyna knows what she is talking about. She was detained in 2015 in the Eloy Immigration Detention Center and was placed in “el hoyo” just for being a trans woman and continues to suffer discrimination by police agents.

“I still visit the detention centers to advocate for others,” she says, “while we are creating safe spaces with Trans Queer Pueblo to bring-up leadership and heal the community.”