A 33-year-old transgender woman from Honduras who was part of what became known as the “refugee caravan” that arrived at the border a few weeks ago died while she was detained by immigration authorities. Immigration and Customs Enforcement identified the woman as Jeffry Hernandez but the Transgender Law Center and other activists identified her as Roxana Hernández.
ICE said Hernández was being held in the transgender unit at the Cibola County Detention Center in Milan, New Mexico when she began suffering “symptoms of pneumonia, dehydration and complications associated with HIV.” She was admitted to the hospital on May 17, when she was placed in the intensive care unit until she died on May 25.
Hernández had sought asylum on May 9 and was first held in what are known as “iceboxes” because of how cold they are, according to Pueblo Sin Fronteras, which organized the caravan. A 2015 report by the American Immigration Council said the “iceboxes” are “inadequate for overnight detention” and official policy states detainees shouldn’t be held there for more than three days. “In addition to the fact that there are no beds in the holding cells, these facilities are extremely cold, frequently overcrowded, and routinely lacking in adequate food, water, and medical care,” notes the report. Pueblo Sin Fronteras said Hernández didn’t get adequate food or medical care. “Roxy died due to medical negligence by US immigration authorities. In other words, she was murdered,” the group said in a statement.
An immigrants rights activist cites a friend of Hernández who claims officers “yelled at her for being sick” and “didn’t give her access” to a doctor. “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.
BuzzFeed News interviewed Hernández last month and she said part of the reason why she decided to flee Honduras was to escape the violence she faced for being transgender.
Hernández said she was gang-raped by a group of MS-13 gang members about four months before she joined the caravan. “Four of them raped me and as a result I got HIV,” Hernández said. “Trans people in my neighborhood are killed and chopped into pieces, then dumped inside potato bags.”