ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Immigrant and LGBT rights advocates on Wednesday protested the death of a Honduran transgender woman while in United States custody, saying the case underscores concerns that transgender migrants in detention facilities often do not receive adequate medical care.
About 60 protesters gathered in a field outside a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement building in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where they marched and held up signs and images of migrant Roxsana Hernandez. The 33-year-old died May 25 at an Albuquerque hospital where she was admitted after showing symptoms of pneumonia, dehydration and complications associated with HIV, federal authorities said.
She had arrived in the United States as part of a highly publicized caravan of Central American asylum seekers, and authorities listed her name as Jeffry Hernandez when she was taken into custody in San Diego. She was later transferred to El Paso, Texas, before being taken to the Cibola County Detention Center in western New Mexico.
She had been in ICE custody 16 days before she died, said attorney Joaquin Sanchez-Leal, of the Albuquerque-based Instituto Legal.
He and other protesters called for allowing for transgender migrants seeking asylum to be freed until their immigration cases are heard, saying the women often are arriving with health complications.
"Instead of treating them as individuals that have severe medical conditions, they're detaining them as if they're at 100 percent," Sanchez-Leal said.
About 60 women are housed in the Cibola County facility's transgender unit, where Hernandez was being detained before she was hospitalized, he said. He said his group has found that many are receiving limited care.
In a statement, an ICE spokeswoman said detainees receive comprehensive care from the moment they arrive. She also said the agency respects the rights of groups to express their opinions, but declined to comment further, citing ongoing reviews.
Immigration authorities said that between 2005 and 2009, Hernandez twice illegally entered the U.S. and was allowed to voluntarily leave the country. She was convicted of theft, prostitution and other charges in two separate cases in Texas during that time.
In 2014, Hernandez illegally re-entered the U.S. a third time, was arrested and removed.