A trans woman has died in US custody, with migrant groups blaming the death on the “medical negligence” on the part of American authorities – and accusing them of “institutional murder.”
Roxana Hernández, 33, died in the custody of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the Lovelace Medical Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
She had been seeking asylum at the San Ysidro port of entry on the US border earlier this month, when she was detained in ICE custody on 13 May.
Hernández, known simply as Roxy, had travelled to the American border as part of a ‘refugee caravan’ – a group of more than 1,300 people – organised by immigration support group Pueblo Sin Fronteras.
In a statement announcing Hernández’s death, ICE said that she had been admitted to hospital on 17 May with symptoms of pneumonia, dehydration and complications associated with HIV.
The US body said that medical staff identified the “preliminary cause of death” as cardiac arrest.
The statement also said that Hernández had entered the US illegally three times since 2005 – but was arrested and removed on her last attempt to stay in the country in 2014.
But a statement released by Pueblo Sin Fronteras, alongside other migrant groups Al Otro Lado and Diversidad Sin Fronteras, disputed ICE’s version of events and described the death as “institutional murder.”
“Roxy died due to medical negligence by US immigration authorities. In other words, she was murdered, much like Claudia Gómez González was murdered by a Border Patrol agent’s bullet less than a week ago,” it reads.
“Roxy died in the country she had sought to start a new life in, she died for being a transgender woman, a migrant who was treated neither with respect nor with dignity.”
The groups added that, in ICE custody, Hernández suffered from “cold, lack of adequate food or medical care, with the lights on 24 hours a day, under lock & key.”
“During her first week in the United States Roxy’s body and spirit quickly deteriorated,” their statement says.
Hernández had been fleeing violence and discrimination she faced because of being transgender in her home country of Honduras.
She told Buzzfeed News last month about an attack in Honduras when a group of gang members shouted at her “we don’t want you in this neighborhood, you fucking faggot,” before gang-raping her.
Earlier this month, a transgender person was shot and killed in Georgia.
Nino Fortson was shot multiple times following an argument in Atlanta, Georgia during the early hours of May 13.