The State Department on Monday announced the president of Chechnya can no longer travel to the U.S.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a statement noted the State Department is “publicly designating” Ramzan Kadyrov under Section 7031(c) of the FY 2020 Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Act. Pompeo in his statement notes “Kadyrov’s involvement in gross violations of human rights in the Chechen Republic.”
“The department has extensive credible information that Kadyrov is responsible for numerous gross violations of human rights dating back more than a decade, including torture and extrajudicial killings,” says Pompeo.
An anti-LGBTQ crackdown in the semi-autonomous Russian republic in the North Caucasus began in late 2016.
The U.S. in 2017 sanctioned Kadyrov under the Magnitsky Act, a law that freezes the assets of Russian citizens who commit human rights abuses and prevents them from obtaining U.S. visas. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in a 2018 report noted authorities in the Russian republic have carried out extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses against LGBTQ Chechens.
Pompeo in his statement references the OSCE report.
“In 2018, the United States and fifteen other nations took the extraordinary step of invoking the OSCE’s Moscow Mechanism to create a fact-finding mission into horrific reports of abuses against LGBTI persons, human rights defenders, members of the independent media, and other citizens who ran afoul of Mr. Kadyrov,” he said. “The Moscow Mechanism rapporteur found that ‘harassment and persecution, arbitrary or unlawful arrests or detentions, torture, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial executions’ had taken place and that ‘a climate of impunity’ surrounded these events.”
Kadyrov — a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin — has dismissed reports that document the anti-LGBTQ crackdown in Chechnya.
The travel ban that Pompeo announced also apply to Kadyrov’s wife and his two daughters.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement this week released a transgender woman from Honduras who had been in their custody for more than two years.
The TransLatin@ Coalition in a tweet said ICE released Kelly González Aguilar from the Aurora Contract Detention Center, a privately-run facility in suburban Denver, on July 14. The tweet — which had pictures of González after her release — said she had been in ICE custody for 1,051 days.
González had previously been detained at the privately-run Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico where ICE in 2017 opened a unit specifically for trans women in their custody.
The TransLatin@ Coalition in an April press release notes González asked for asylum in the U.S.
“Because of her gender identity, Kelly has experienced relentless violence and abuse since she was a child in Honduras,” reads the press release.
The TransLatin@ Coalition, which is among the advocacy groups that urged ICE to release González, notes she remained in custody, despite her eligibility for parole.
The advocacy group in April released a video in which González and other trans ICE detainees at the Aurora Contract Detention Center spoke about their concerns over the coronavirus inside the facility. The TransLatin@ Coalition is among the organizations that have called for ICE to release people with HIV and other detainees who are more vulnerable to the pandemic.
“It was time that ICE made the right decision,” TransLatin@ Coalition President Bamby Salcedo told the Washington Blade on Thursday in a text message. “The release of Kelly was made possible because of the pressure of the people.”
Salcedo said upwards of 80,000 people signed the TransLatin@ Coalition’s petition that demanded ICE release González. Salcedo noted to the Blade that members of Congress also backed calls for González’s release.
The Santa Fe Dreamers Project, a New Mexico-based immigrant advocacy group, also welcomed González’s release.
“Kelly’s release demonstrates that ICE has the capacity to release all immigrants from detention, particularly in the context of COVID-19,” said the Santa Fe Dreamers Project in a tweet that thanked the TransLatin@ Coalition and the National Immigration Justice Center for their efforts on González’s behalf.
“ICE did not have a valid reason to keep Kelly for that long,” Salcedo told the Blade. “They let her free a couple of days ago, but they could have done this much earlier.”
“This is just another sign about the injustices that ICE and the immigration detention system continues to portray against all of us,” added Salcedo.
The Blade has requested an interview with González.
Actor Billy Porter is among those who participated in the first-ever global Black Pride event that took place on July 10.
Global Black Gay Men Connect organized the 12-hour virtual event — the First Global Black Gay Pride is a Riot — with the support of upwards of a dozen LGBTQ advocacy groups. They include OutRight Action International, Mobilizing Our Brothers Initiative (MOBI) in New York City, GLAAD, the Caribbean Equality Forum, the Eastern Caribbean Alliance, BlackOutUK, the Love Tank, Living Free UK, Pan Africa ILGA and the House of Rainbow.
Grindr provided technical support for the event. Canadian Minister of Diversity and Inclusion Bardish Chagger also participated.
“We created the event to provide a space for Black queer people across the globe to connect and celebrate each other,” Micheal Ighodaro, a member of Global Black Gay Men Connect’s board of directors, told the Washington Blade on Tuesday in an email. “Its hard to believe this was the first global Black Pride. we wanted to create this space for dialogue and also getting Black LGBTQI people across the globe to engage each other in art and activism.”
The coronavirus pandemic has forced the cancellation of hundreds of in-person Pride celebrations around the world.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, actress Laverne Cox and singer Adam Lambert are among the hundreds of people who participated in last month’s virtual Global Pride 2020 that sought to amplify the Black Lives Matter movement. Ighodaro told the Blade the Canadian government is the only government that responded to First Global Black Gay Pride is a Riot organizers’ request to participate in the event.
“This says a lot about how we see Black LGBTQI people and Black LGBTQI-led initiatives,” he said.
Ighodaro told the Blade organizers hope next year’s global Black Pride event will be in person.
Dr. Anthony Fauci on Friday said it remains unclear whether people with HIV are more vulnerable to the coronavirus.
“The story is not yet completely out in individuals with HIV,” he said during a panel that took place on the final day of the 2020 International AIDS Conference. “Those with HIV that’s not controlled in the sense of controlled viremia as opposed to those with good control. That knowledge store is still evolving.”
Fauci in his presentation also said there is a “significant issue” in the U.S. “with a disproportionate disparity or serious illness among our minority population” with Black people, Latinos and Native Americans most impacted. Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House’s coronavirus task force, echoed Fauci in her own remarks during the panel.
“This is like HIV and that there are specific vulnerable groups, either by race, ethnicity or their relationship in poverty,” she said.
Both Birx and Fauci said hypertension, diabetes and obesity are among the underlying health issues that make people more vulnerable to coronavirus.
Dr. Sarah Henn, chief medical officer at Whitman-Walker Health in D.C., told the Washington Blade in March that older people with underlying medical conditions and those who have chronic illnesses are most vulnerable to the pandemic. Immigration Equality and other advocacy groups have also said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees with HIV are also at risk.
“When I think of people who are at increased risk or high risk for coronavirus I think of people who are significantly immunosuppressed,” Henn told the Blade. “I think of people who are going through cancer chemotherapy, people who are immunosuppressed with medications with a history of organ transplants, and people with a very low CD4 count and uncontrolled HIV and AIDS.”
Fauci: U.S. in midst of ‘very serious problem’
The International AIDS Conference was to have taken place this week in San Francisco and Oakland, Calif., but it happened virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Johns Hopkins University of Medicine’s Coronavirus Resource Center notes there are more than 3.2 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. Their statistics also indicate the pandemic has killed 134,729 people in this country.
The New York Times reported there were 68,241 new coronavirus cases reported in the U.S. on Friday.
Birx noted four states — Arizona, California, Florida and Texas — account for 50 percent of new coronavirus cases in the country. She also said positive test rates in Houston and Phoenix are higher than 20 percent.
“In the United States we have increased number of cases over the … particularly past three weeks,” said Birx. “We have not seen this result in increased mortality but that is expected as the disease continues to spread in some of our large metro areas where co-morbidities exist.”
Fauci also said upwards of 45 percent of people with confirmed coronavirus cases are asymptomatic.
“There is transmission by asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals to unaffected individuals, which clearly complicates greatly attempts at contract tracing and isolation,” he said.
The Trump administration’s response to the pandemic has been widely criticized, but Birx stressed the U.S. has “worked hard to expand testing.” Birx also said efforts to combat the virus in this country remain largely focused on the state and local level.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican who is a close Trump ally, is among the governors who continue to face sharp criticism over their response to the pandemic.
“The United States is a state-by-state, county-by-county and that’s the way we’ve made our response, very much looking at a very granular level and then working with the governors and the mayors to have a very specific and tailored response for each of these areas,” said Birx.
Fauci, like Birx, acknowledged the pandemic is far from under control in the U.S.
“My own country, the United States … is in the middle right now, even as we speak, of a very serious problem,” said Fauci.
More than 100 members of Congress on Thursday called upon President Trump to implement last month’s U.S. Supreme Court decision that says Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans anti-LGBTQ employment discrimination.
“In light of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, we request that your administration direct all relevant agencies to undertake a review of all regulations, executive orders, and agency policies that implicate legal protections for LGBTQ individuals under federal civil rights laws,” reads the letter.
The letter notes the Trump administration “has repeatedly issued dozens of regulatory and agency actions premised almost entirely on the claim that federal bans on sex discrimination do not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity” and points out the White House “argued against the employees in Bostock.” The letter also calls upon the Trump administration to identify “the steps it is taking to implement the Bostock decision and fully enforce our nation’s civil rights laws that prohibit sex discrimination.
“All people should have confidence that their federal government is working to protect — not undermine — their rights,” reads the letter. “We therefore ask that you take immediate steps to ensure that LGBTQ people enjoy the full protections of the nation’s federal civil rights laws.”
U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and U.S. Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) are among the lawmakers to who signed the letter.
A separate letter that 116 members of Congress signed on Wednesday urges Defense Secretary Mark Esper and U.S. Attorney General William Barr to rescind the ban on openly transgender servicemembers. The letter of which Norton, Raskin and Wexton are among the signatories also notes the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Bostock case.
“This policy is an attack on transgender service members who are risking their lives to serve our country and it should be reversed immediately,” reads the letter.
A federal judge in Maryland on Wednesday said the State Department must recognize the U.S. citizenship of a gay couple’s daughter who was born in Canada via surrogate.
U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang ruled in favor of Roee Kiviti and Adiel Kiviti of Chevy Chase, Md., who were legally married in California in 2013. Their daughter, Kessem Kiviti, was born in February 2019.
A lawsuit the couple filed in the U.S. District Court of Maryland last September notes the Kivitis were both American citizens when their daughter was born. The lawsuit also notes Section 301(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act states “a baby born abroad to married parents is a U.S. citizen at birth when both parents are U.S. citizens and one of them has resided in the United States at any point prior to the baby’s birth.”
Lambda Legal; Immigration Equality and Morgan Lewis, a private law firm, represent the Kivitis.
“We are tremendously relieved that the court recognized what we always knew: that our daughter was a U.S. citizen by birth,” said Roee and Adiel Kiviti in a statement that Lambda Legal and Immigration Equality released. “We are proud we taught our little girl to stand up for what’s right even before she could crawl. No child should be denied her rights because her parents are LGBT, and no family should have to endure the indignity we did.”
Lambda Legal Senior Staff Attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, one of the lawyers who represents the Kivitis, in a statement noted the judge ruled in their favor two days after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision that said Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“After this week’s Supreme Court victory affirming that LGBT people cannot be carved out from laws prohibiting discrimination in employment, today’s victory confirms once again that married same-sex couples cannot be carved-out from laws tied to marriage, as is the Immigration and Nationality Act,” said Gonzalez-Pagan. “The Immigration and Nationality Act does not distinguish between the marital children of same-sex and different-sex couples. As the court noted, to do so would violate the clear terms of the law and raise grave constitutional concerns.”
“The law provides for the recognition of citizenship to the children born abroad of married couples who are U.S. citizens,” he added. “This provision applies equally to all couples regardless of whether the parents have a biological relationship with their children. It was callous and discriminatory for the State Department to refuse to recognize baby Kessem as the U.S. citizen she is. Today’s victory shows how unlawful the Department of State’s actions really were.”
An official with the State Department on Wednesday told the Washington Blade it is “aware of the court’s ruling and is reviewing the decision with the Department of Justice.”
“We have no further comment at this time,” said the official.
Friday marks four years since a gunman killed 49 people inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.
“Four years have now passed, but our community’s commitment to honoring the 49 angels and supporting the survivors, families of the victims and first responders remains strong,” tweeted Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, who was in office on June 12, 2016, when the massacre took place.
The onePULSE Foundation, a group founded by Pulse owner Barbara Poma that is planning to build a permanent memorial, on Friday will hold a virtual ceremony to honor the massacre’s victims. The coronavirus pandemic prompted organizers not to hold an in-person commemoration this year.
“We are grateful for the tremendous support of the community and would love nothing more than to have our community members join us in remembering our 49 Angels, and honoring our survivors and first responders, but we must prioritize the health and safety of the public, the Pulse community, and our employees,” said Poma in a statement. “We ask the community to join together again, in a different way this year, as a symbol of strength and solidarity in the face of tragedy, forever proving: We will not let hate win.”
Nearly half of the massacre’s victims were LGBTQ Puerto Ricans.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz has ordered flags in her city to be lowered to half-mast. Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, a Puerto Rican LGBTQ advocacy group, on Friday visited a memorial in a San Juan park that honors the victims.
“Love always wins — always,” said Serrano in a tweet that shows him visiting the memorial.
Visitando el primer monumento LGBTTIQ+ de Puerto Rico que el Municipio de San Juan erigió en honor a las vidas de 49 seres humanos —24 boricuas— que murieron a causa del odio en la tragedia de Pulse en Orlando.
An interim memorial has opened at the nightclub, which is less than two miles from downtown Orlando.
Scott Bowman of the onePulse Foundation on Thursday said $19 million has been raised for the permanent memorial that will have three components: The National Pulse Memorial, the Museum and Education Center and the Orlando Health Survivors Walk. Bowman told the Washington Blade the Orlando Health Survivors Walk’s groundbreaking will take place next April.
The Orlando Sentinel on Friday reportedU.S. Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.), who represents portions of Orlando, has introduced a bill that would designate Pulse as a national memorial. Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis designated Friday as “Pulse Remembrance Day” and ordered flags in the state lowered to half-staff.
The massacre at the time was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, and it renewed calls for gun control in this country.
Equality Florida — along with the Human Rights Campaign, Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund and Giffords Law Center — on Friday issued a report that documents gun violence’s impact on LGBTQ people. The report, among other things, notes nearly 80 percent of Black transgender women who have been killed since 2013 were shot to death.
“Gun safety is an LGBTQ issue, plain and simple,” said HRC President Alphonso David in a statement.
This year’s commemorations of the massacre are taking place amid continued protests against police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. President Trump is also running for re-election.
Equality Florida has announced it plans to target 500,000 “pro-equality voters in the state of Florida with the goal of ensuring they have updated registrations, resources to educate themselves on where candidates stand on equality, and sign up to receive their ballots by mail.”
“When we set out on this journey four years ago, Equality Florida promised to do the work of uprooting hate and violence,” said Equality Florida Senior Political Director Joe Saunders in a press release. “Dismantling systems of racism and homophobia requires that pro-equality voters make our voices heard and ensure our votes shape who represents us and what policies they champion.”
“We live in the most important political real estate in the country and pro-equality voters are positioned to make the difference between a state that will be won or lost by 100,000 votes,” he added. “In 2020 we’re going to leave it all on the field.”
Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Pérez and Earl Fowlkes, who chairs the DNC’s LGBTQ Caucus, on Friday issued a statement that acknowledged the massacre’s fourth anniversary.
Trump in the days after the massacre reiterated his calls that the U.S. should temporarily ban Muslims from entering the country. Pérez and Fowlkes in their statement said Trump “took advantage of the tragedy at Pulse to attack immigrants and Muslims, as he has continued to throughout his presidency.”
“Instead of advocating for commonsense gun reform or equal rights, he sought to divide Americans during a crisis — as he has during today’s twin public health crises of coronavirus and systemic racism,” added Pérez and Fowlkes. “Throughout his presidency, Trump has uprooted LGBTQ+ rights, attacked our access to health care, separated families, and fanned the flames of bigotry and hate. We need Joe Biden as president to unite Americans and continue our long march toward a more equal country.”
Deputy White House Press Secretary Judd Deere in a statement to the Blade acknowledged the massacre’s anniversary.
“The horrible attack on the LGBT community at the Pulse nightclub four years ago is just one of many reasons why President Trump has made it a top priority to root out radical Islamic extremists wherever they hide,” said Deere. “As the president has said, we will never forget the 49 individuals who were senselessly murdered that night.”
The nephew of Harvey Milk on Thursday expressed his support for those who are protesting against police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
“I’m inspired by the protests,” Stuart Milk told the Washington Blade during a brief interview at a Fort Lauderdale restaurant. “I am really hopeful that maybe we can create some systemic change.”
Milk spoke with the Blade less than two weeks after Floyd died after then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck.
Minnesota prosecutors have charged Chauvin with second-degree murder in connection with Floyd’s death. The Associated Press notes the three other now former police officers who were with Chauvin face charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Christopher Street West, the group that organizes Los Angeles’ annual Pride parade, has announced it will hold a march “in response to racial injustice, systematic racism and all forms of oppression.” Milk told the Blade he “would like to see more of that and hopefully one day we can do that on our global scale.”
“It’s been nine days … sometimes we see these things really light up and then fizzle out and then we move on to something else,” he said. “It’s my hope and desire that we don’t move on and that we as an LGBTQ community keep that fire burning.”
“Unless there is justice for everyone in the United States there is justice for no one,” added Milk.
Milk on Thursday also talked about the Trump administration’s campaign to encourage countries to decriminalize consensual same-sex relations.
The White House last year tapped outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell to spearhead the initiative.
The U.S. Embassy in Germany last summer hosted a group of LGBTQ rights activists from around the world. Grenell and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Kelly Knight Craft late last year organized an event on the sidelines of a U.N. Security Council meeting that focused on efforts to decriminalize homosexuality around the world.
“The campaign has had some deep back door discussions that I think are important,” Milk told the Blade. “It’s important that we keep global LGBT rights moving forward.”
Milk added “its just totally unacceptable that we have over 70 countries where it’s still illegal and criminalized to be LGBT.”
A U.S. diplomat on Monday acknowledged the coronavirus pandemic continues to have a disproportionate impact on LGBTQ people around the world.
“The COVID pandemic really highlights the challenges for the LGBTQ community,” said Acting U.S. Representative to the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Courtney Nemroff during a virtual event organized by the U.N. LGBTI Core Group that commemorated the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. “We are particularly concerned about the fear, the real fear of discrimination against members of the community when they try to seek basic health care services.”
Nemroff added the issue is “something of concern to the U.S. as well.”
OutRight Action International Executive Director Jessica Stern moderated the IDAHOBiT event in which Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the U.N.’s LGBTQ rights watchdog, and diplomats from Nepal and other countries around the world participated. Billie Bryan, president of Colours Cayman, an advocacy group in the Cayman Islands, and Khawla Bouaziz, secretary general of Mawjoudin, a Tunisian LGBTQ rights organization, also spoke.
The IDAHOBiT event took place hours after a Ugandan court ordered the release of 19 LGBTQ people who were arrested at a shelter in the country’s capital of Kampala on March 29 and charged with violating coronavirus-related social distancing rules.
Uganda is among the dozens of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized. Nemroff made a broad reference to a campaign led by acting national intelligence director Richard Grenell, who is also the U.S. ambassador to Germany, that encourages nations to legalize homosexuality.
“The United States has put a special accent this year on … amplifying our efforts on decriminalization and on equality,” said Nemroff.
IDAHOBiT, which was previously known as the International Day Against Homophobia, commemorates the World Health Organization’s decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. Neither the White House, nor the State Department publicly acknowledged IDAHOBiT, but the U.S. Mission to the U.N. and many American embassies around the world did.
“In recognition of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, the United States Mission to the United Nations reaffirms its commitment to the principle that ‘the inherent dignity and … the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,’” reads a statement the U.S. Mission to the U.N. issued on Sunday. “Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is the duty of every nation to protect and defend the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all people.”
The U.S. Embassy in Spain on Sunday in a tweet said, “today and every day we affirm that human rights and fundamental freedoms are universal and that each person has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
The U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan in a statement it posted to its Twitter account said it “stands in solidarity with LGBTI Kazakhstanis and displays the rainbow flag today in recognition of this important day.” The U.S. Embassy in Germany in a tweet noted consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in more than a third of the world’s countries.
Today we commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia. #IDAHOBIT The U.S.Mission to #Kazakhstan stands in solidarity with LGBTI Kazakhstanis and displays the Rainbow Flag today in recognition of this important day. LGBTI rights are human rights
Over one-third of the world’s countries still criminalize #LBGTI people. Being LGBTI is #notacrime. The U.S. urges gov’ts to decriminalize and stands in solidarity with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons worldwide. On #IDAHOTB and every day. #IDAHOTB2020
This year’s IDAHOBiT commemorations took place against the backdrop of the pandemic that has killed more than 300,000 people around the world. They also coincide with continued criticism of the Trump administration’s domestic LGBTQ rights record and its overall foreign policy.
The U.S. is among the countries that are members of the U.N. LGBTI Core Group, which promotes LGBTQ rights at the U.N. The U.S. nevertheless did not sign the IDAHOBiT statement the group issued on Sunday.
“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is clear: Human rights are universal and should apply equally to all people everywhere,” reads the statement. “Today and every day the UN LGBTI Core Group works to address the silence around the ongoing discrimination against LGBTI people globally.”
The statement further states the “ongoing public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges that affect the global community as a whole but additionally have a particular and unique effect on those who face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, including LGBTI persons.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a human security crisis that is widespread in scope and impact, with survival, health, safety, economic security and human rights being endangered as a result. In order to truly address the impacts and consequences of the pandemic, the needs of those most vulnerable and most affected must be addressed,” it reads.
A State Department official on Tuesday told the Washington Blade in response to its question about why the U.S. did not sign the U.N. LGBTI Core Group statement that American policy “on LGBTI human rights is focused on mitigating violence and the decriminalization of LGBTI conduct.”
“The statements issued by the Core Group and the Equal (Rights) Coalition included broad language that went beyond the scope of the department’s policy mandate,” said the official. “The statements also go beyond settled U.S. law.”
The official did not further elaborate on how the statements “went beyond the scope of the department’s policy mandate” and “go beyond settled U.S. law.” The official did stress the U.S.’ “longstanding commitment to protecting the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all people, including LGBTI persons, is well-known” and “so too is its interest in ensuring that any statements it joins are consistent with U.S. law and policy.”
“In this case, a virtual abbreviated negotiation process for a lengthy statement made it preferable to release our own statement, which went up on the USUN Mission’s website and social media yesterday,” added the official.
The family of a transgender woman with HIV who died in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in 2018 has filed a federal lawsuit against five private companies that were responsible for her care.
The Transgender Law Center and two immigration lawyers — Daniel Yohalem in Santa Fe., N.M., and R. Andrew Free in Nashville — filed the lawsuit on Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico. Management and Training Corporation, LaSalle Corrections, Global Precision Systems, TransCor America and CoreCivic are named as defendants.
Hernández, who was from Honduras, entered U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody on May 9, 2018, when she asked for asylum at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in San Diego. She was later sent to the Cibola County Correctional Center, a facility in Milan N.M., that CoreCivic, which was previously known as the Corrections Corporation of America, operates.
Hernández was admitted to Cibola General Hospital in Grants, N.M., shortly after she arrived at the detention center. Hernández died at Lovelace Medical Center in Albuquerque, N.M., on May 25, 2018.
The lawsuit alleges Hernández on May 14, 2018, “exhibited visible signs of deterioration requiring immediate medical intervention” when Management and Training Corporation transported her and 12 other trans detainees from San Ysidro to the San Luis Regional Detention Center, a facility in San Luis, Ariz., that LaSalle Corrections operates.
“MTC denied Roxsana and her fellow detainees food, water, and restroom access throughout their transfer,” reads the lawsuit.
The lawsuit notes one detainee said Hernández appeared “very weak and pale, almost yellow in pallor, with dark circles under her eyes” when she was at the San Luis Regional Detention Center.
Hernández was at the facility for only a “few hours,” but she “used the bathroom several times to vomit or spit up phlegm.” The lawsuit claims Hernández “was so weak from fever that she spent most of her time at SLRDC (San Luis Regional Detention Center) laying on the floor, coughing.”
“Officers of Defendant LaSalle Corrections witnessed Roxsana’s obvious state of medical need and failed to offer her emergency medical assistance,” reads the lawsuit. “Eventually during her time at SLRDC Roxsana was so ill she could not eat and had to use the restroom approximately every 15 minutes because she had such bad diarrhea.”
The lawsuit states Hernández and more than two dozen other trans detainees at around midnight on May 15 boarded a bus that took them to the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa.
“Roxsana was very ill during the four-hour bus ride and pleaded for help to a person who sat with her, saying words to the effect of, ‘Help me! I don’t know if I’m going to survive,’” reads the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges a LaSalle Corrections officer “threatened” Hernández and the other detainees with whom she was traveling. The lawsuit says one detainee asked officers in both English and Spanish to provide medical care to Hernández, but they “ignored her.”
“When they arrived at the airport, one of the people being transported by LaSalle alongside Roxsana told an officer with beige pants and long red hair that Roxsana was very sick and needed immediate medical attention,” reads the lawsuit. “The officer refused to respond to her. During her five hour stay in the Mesa airport Roxsana remained in LaSalle’s custody and was provided no medical care or assistance for her sickness.”
The lawsuit states Hernández and the other detainees flew to El Paso, Texas, and arrived at the El Paso Processing Center at around 3:15 p.m. The lawsuit notes Hernández remained at the facility until the morning of May 16, 2018.
“She and her fellow asylum seekers woke up to ICE officers presenting them food that they were instructed to eat for breakfast at around 5:00 a.m.,” reads the lawsuit. “Roxsana attempted to eat the meal provided, but ended up vomiting and then going back to sleep.”
“By this time, Roxsana appeared to all around her to be gravely ill,” reads the lawsuit. “Despite LaSalle’s knowledge of Roxsana’s urgent need for medical care, during the entire time Roxsana was in LaSalle’s custody LaSalle did not provide her with medical care or assistance to alleviate her suffering.”
The lawsuit says Hernández and 29 other detainees who were going to the Cibola County Correctional Center boarded a bus at around 9 a.m.
“Each person was provided an 8-ounce bottle of water and sandwich to last the entire five and-half hour journey to the Cibola detention center in New Mexico,” says the lawsuit, which notes the temperature in El Paso that day reached 97 degrees before noon.
The lawsuit notes Hernández asked an officer for water during the trip, but he told her that he did not speak Spanish.
Hernández reportedly “had a fever and produced a significant amount of phlegm during the trip” and had bloody sputum when she blew her nose. The lawsuit also notes Hernández “felt dizzy and extremely exhausted, and her stomach hurt badly.”
The lawsuit says the bus arrived at the ICE Criminal Alien Program facility in Albuquerque at around 2:30 p.m.
“Despite GPS’s knowledge of Roxsana’s urgent need for medical care, during the entire time Roxsana was in GPS’s custody GPS did not provide her with medical care or assistance to alleviate her suffering,” it reads.
The lawsuit says officers from TransCor drove Hernández and 28 other trans detainees to the Cibola County Correctional Center, which is roughly 80 miles west of Albuquerque. The detainees arrived at the facility shortly after 8 p.m.
“Throughout this trip, Roxsana continued to appear gravely ill,” reads the lawsuit, noting she was unable to eat. 94. “Roxsana required immediate medical assistance that TransCor employees neglected to provide.”
The Cibola County Correctional Center at the time had a unit specifically for trans women who were in ICE custody.
The lawsuit states Hernández was booked into the facility at around 1:15 a.m. on May 17. It notes she spent the night in the facility’s “medical waiting room.”
“Roxsana lay on the floor, only getting up to use the restroom or drink a beverage officers brought around 4 a.m.,” reads the lawsuit. “Roxsana was so weak and ill that she became delirious.”
The lawsuit states Hernández was brought to an “onsite medical provider who conducted an intake screening.” Hernández received “electrolytes and Ensure” before she returned to a holding cell.
The lawsuit says “an onsite medical provider” examined Hernández at around 10 a.m. She reportedly weighted 89 lbs., and was diagnosed with “dehydration, starvation, extreme weight loss, muscle wasting, untreated HIV, fever and cough.” The lawsuit also notes Hernández’s blood pressure was 81/61 and she had “rough breathing sounds and increased amount of white phlegm mucus excreted in abnormally large quantities.”
The lawsuit states officers at the detention center called an ambulance that brought Hernández to Cibola General Hospital at 11:44 a.m. Hernández later that day was airlifted to Lovelace Medical Center where she died.
“Throughout her hospitalization, CoreCivic officers shackled Roxsana at her wrists and both ankles to her hospital bed except when medical personnel needed to remove them for certain medical procedures,” reads the lawsuit. “At least one armed CoreCivic officer guarded Roxsana at all times and checked that her restraints were secured at least every 20 minutes.”
“Each time medical staff needed CoreCivic officers to remove her restraints, the officer on duty made a call to ‘central’ to receive approval to remove them, delaying Roxsana’s receipt of medical care,” notes the lawsuit. “CoreCivic officers kept Roxsana shackled even after her treating medical providers medically paralyzed her and when she first went into cardiac arrest.”
‘Every private entity tasked with Roxsana’s care failed her’
An autopsy the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator performed concluded Hernández died from Castleman disease associated with AIDS.
A second autopsy` that former Georgia Chief Medical Examiner Kris Sperry performed at the Transgender Law Center’s request concluded the cause of death was “most probably severe complications of dehydration superimposed upon HIV infection, with the probable presence of one or more opportunistic infections.” The second autopsy also found “evidence of physical abuse” that included bruising on Hernández’s rib cage and contusions on her body.
“Every private entity tasked with Roxsana’s care failed her,” said Dale Melchert, a Transgender Law Center staff attorney, in a press release that announced the lawsuit. “What we know about the short time that Roxsana was in immigration custody is that the officers tasked with transporting her saw her health deteriorate, heard her cries for help, and did nothing. She needlessly suffered as a result of their inaction.”
ICE has denied allegations that Hernández was abused while in its custody.
Amanda Gilchrist, a spokesperson for CoreCivic, on Thursday told the Washington Blade in a statement the company offers “our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Roxsana Hernández.” Gilchrist also noted Hernández was “gravely ill” when she arrived at the Cibola County Correctional Center.
“When she arrived, she went through the intake process, which includes a medical evaluation,” said Gilchrist. “The medical team made the determination that she needed to be immediately transported to an outside hospital.”
“Ms. Hernandez was only at Cibola for 12 hours, where she stayed in the intake area before being transported to the hospital where she passed away nine days later,” she added.
Issa Arnita, a spokesperson for the Management and Training Corporation, on Thursday told the Blade in an email the company “disputes the allegations in the lawsuit, but is unable to comment any further because of the litigation.” Arnita in a second email noted Hernández was in Management and Training Corporation’s custody for “less than four hours, more than a week before her death.”