A newly released autopsy shows a transgender woman seeking asylum in the United States may have been beaten before her death while she was held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Roxsana Hernandez Rodriguez’s death was first reported in May. She was from Honduras and faced discrimination and violence there due to her gender identity. She was also HIV positive.
Hernandez, 33, was part of a caravan of refugees earlier in the year. When she arrived in the US on 9 May, she applied for asylum.
After transferring between several different facilities, she became ill and died on 25 May.
An independent autopsy showed Hernandez suffered apparent physical abuse before her death.
What are the conclusions?
According to the Washington Post, Kris Sperry, a former chief medical examiner of Georgia, conducted the autopsy.
It was done as part of a ‘notice of wrongful death’ claim. The Transgender Law Center, on behalf of Hernandez and her family, filed the claim.
Sperry’s autopsy revealed deep bruising on her rib cage and contusions on her back. He wrote these wounds were ‘indicative of blows, and/or kicks, and possible strikes with a blunt object’.
Hernandez’s wrists also showed injuries in line with wearing handcuffs.
Sperry further wrote: ‘According to observations of other detainees who were with Ms. Hernandez Rodriguez, the diarrhea and vomiting episodes persisted over multiple days with no medical evaluation or treatment, until she was gravely ill.’
What is ICE saying?
ICE spokeswoman Danielle Bennett said in a statement: ‘A review of Hernandez’s death conducted by ICE Health Service Corps medical professionals confirmed that she suffered from a history of untreated HIV. At no time did the medical personnel treating Ms. Hernandez at Cibola General Hospital or Lovelace Medical Center raise any issues of suspected physical abuse.’
R. Andrew Free, a lawyer representing Hernandez’s family, said he believes the alleged abuse took place at Cibola.
Amanda Gilchrist, a spokeswoman for CoreCivic, which operates the Cibola correctional facility, denied this.
‘We’re also committed to providing a safe environment for transgender detainees,’ she said. She also added ICE observes ‘conditions and contractual performance’ at their centers.
The Trans Law Center are preparing a lawsuit against ICE and other immigration agencies.