A transgender woman was handcuffed, beaten and deprived of medical treatment before dying in ICE custody, a lawyer representing her family said Monday.
Roxsana Hernández, 33, fled Honduras and traveled through Mexico with a migrant caravan before arriving at the San Ysidro, Calif., port of entry on May 9.
There, she spent five days in Customs and Border Protection custody in facilities referred to as “iceboxes” because of their frigid temperatures. She was then handed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which moved her to a transgender housing unit at the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, New Mexico, ICE previously confirmed.
According to ICE, Hernández was admitted to the Cibola General Hospital on May 17 with symptoms of pneumonia, dehydration and complications associated with HIV.
She died on May 25 and her preliminary cause of death was listed as cardiac arrest.
But the Transgender Law Center, citing a private autopsy report acquired by the Daily Beast, said that Hernández “was shackled for a long time and very tightly, enough to cause deep bruising on her wrists.”
The autopsy concluded that Hernández likely died from “severe complications of dehydration superimposed upon HIV infection.”
Forensic pathologist Kris Sperry also said that Hernández’s body showed “deep bruising” on her hands and abdomen, likely from “blows and/or kicks and possible strikes with (a) blunt object.
“Her death was entirely preventable,” Lynly Egyes, TLC’s Director of Litigation, said in a statement.
A spokeswoman for ICE told the Daily News that “allegations that (Hernandez) was abused in ICE custody are false.”
“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,” the spokeswoman said.
“ICE takes very seriously the health, safety and welfare of those in our care, including those who come into ICE custody with prior medical conditions or who have never before received appropriate medical care. Any death that happens in ICE custody is a cause for concern, and the agency will continue its full review of this case according to standard protocols.”
Egyes and attorney Andrew Free filed a wrongful death claim against the Cibola County Correctional Center.
“Some of the possible claims against public entities include battery, assault, negligence, failure to protect,excessive force, intentional infliction of emotional distress, deliberate indifference, wrongful death, and failure to provide proper medical/mental health care,” they wrote.
In a statement, Hernández’s sisters called her death an injustice.
“They cut her life short and she was not able to fulfill her dreams. For us, her closest family, it’s been extremely painful to deal with. She left with dreams of opening a beauty salon and hopes of helping us out. She fled Honduras because here transgender people are discriminated against. She left with hopes of living a better life. It has not been easy for us to accept that she is gone, we were very close,” they wrote.
“It’s difficult to accept that she was taken from us because of negligence, because of not giving her support and medication that she needed, because they treated her like an animal. It’s not fair. It’s not fair that she fled Honduras looking for a better life and instead she was murdered. Now all we have left with is the hope that we can see justice for her. Justice for Roxsana.”
About a month before her death, Hernández told Buzzfeed News that she got HIV after being gang raped by four MS-13 gang members in Honduras.
“Trans people in my neighborhood are killed and chopped into pieces, then dumped inside potato bags,” she said.