Global Violence Against Women

Transwoman who Died in ICE Custody was Physically Abused, Autopsy Reports

An autopsy report released this week states that the body of Roxsana Hernandez Rodriguez, a transgender migrant in ICE custody, shows signs of “physical assault and abuse.” Hernandez Rodriguez died in ICE custody in May and the autopsy shows she had “deep bruises” and “contusions” from “blows and/or kicks and possible strikes with a blunt object” while in custody.

The report also shows that Hernandez Rodriguez was HIV positive and died from dehydration that was exacerbated by her HIV status. Lynly Egyes, the director of litigation at the Transgender Law Center, stated that “people need to know she died of dehydration. People need to know that her death was preventable.” The Transgender Law Center, as well as other allied groups, is planning to file a wrongful death suit against ICE on behalf of Hernandez Rodriguez’s family.

When Hernandez Rodriguez was placed into ICE custody, they placed her in “iceboxes,” or cold cells, with lights on 24 hours a day. She was not provided with adequate food or medical care before being transferred to a transgender unit at the Cibola County Correctional Center. She was immediately admitted to the hospital after her first day because of severe vomiting and diarrhea. She was then transferred to a different hospital where she died in intensive care.

Forensic pathologist Kris Sperry, who performed the autopsy, wrote in the report  that, “according to observations of other detainees who were with Ms. Hernandez Rodriquez, the diarrhea and vomiting episodes persisted over multiple days with no medical evaluation or treatment, until she was gravely ill.” However, ICE posted in a news release that cardiac arrest, not dehydration and physical abuse, was the cause of death.

ICE has not released a detainee death report for Hernandez yet even though legally the agency must finalize death reports within 60 days. It has been over 180 days since her death.

Hernandez Rodriguez was a migrant from Honduras seeking asylum in the United States and died in custody weeks after reaching the border at San Ysidro. She was fleeing violence and discrimination in Honduras. Hernandez Rodriguez previously said that “trans people in my neighborhood are killed and chopped into pieces, then dumped inside potato bags. I didn’t want to come to Mexico – I wanted to stay Honduras but I couldn’t. They kill trans people in Honduras. I’m scared of that.”


Media Resources: HuffPost 11/27/18; Feminist Newswire 11/27/18

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