A trans woman who died in the custody of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was not physically abused before death, New Mexico officials have concluded.
The New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator said that Roxsana Hernández died of AIDS-related illness in May 2018.
Hernández, a 33-year-old Honduran asylum seeker, had been detained in the Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico.
Her death sparked numerous calls for investigations. It has also caused widespread condemnation of the treatment of LGBTI asylum seekers looking for refuge in the US.
‘Evidence of physical abuse’
The latest autopsy carried out by New Mexico officials concluded that Hernández’ died of natural causes.
This report differs from a separate autopsy performed last year.
That autopsy, carried out by Georgia Chief Medical Examiner Kris Sperry, found ‘evidence of physical abuse’. This included ‘deep bruising’ on Hernández’ rib cage, and ‘deep contusions extending onto the back’.
Sperry’s report also said that Hernández’s wrists ‘also exhibited extensive regions of deep soft tissue and musculature hemorrhage, again not externally visible, which are typical of handcuff injuries,’ the Washington Blade reports.
The autopsy concludes the cause of death was ‘most probably severe complications of dehydration superimposed upon HIV infection’.
The New Mexico Medical Investigator’s office acknowledged the results of the Sperry’s autopsy. It added that ‘We do not share that conclusion’.
Hernández’ death caused outrage among LGBTI rights advocates and politicians.
Shortly after her death, LGBTI rights group the Human Rights Campaign called for an investigation.
In December 2018, three Democratic Senators, Tom Udall, Martin Heinrich, and Kamala Harris, wrote to ICE demanding an explanation.
‘According to ICE, Lovelace Medical Center preliminarily listed Ms. Hernández’s cause of death as cardiac arrest,’ the letter read.
Backlash over ‘cruel’ immigration policies
Countless LGBTI people are among refugees seeking asylum at the southern border of the US after fleeing persecution in their home countries.
Trans communities face particular discrimination in South America, which is the deadliest continent for trans people.
The debate over refugees and asylum seekers has become particularly divisive during the presidency of Donald Trump.
The White House has implemented a number of hardline policies with regard to immigrants and has curtailed a number of trans rights.
Human rights groups have condemned the US government for what they describe as ‘cruel’ and inhumane treatment of migrants and asylum seekers.
In February, Trump was also accused of stoking fears over immigration to help secure funding to build a wall along the southern border.