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Advocates say transgender migrant died from ICE negligence

By Sara Shayanian
Advocates say transgender migrant died from ICE negligence
Border agents patrol the San Ysidro, Calif., Port of Entry. U.S. immigration officials said a transgender migrant died in their custody of complications from HIV, while advocates say she died as a result of negligence. File Photo by Howard Shen/UPI | License Photo

May 31 (UPI) -- A transgender woman who traveled to the United States in a migrant caravan from Central America died while in U.S. custody, officials said.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement Roxana Hernandez was detained in San Diego May 13 and later transferred to the Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico, where she was housed in the transgender unit.

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A day later, Hernandez was admitted to the hospital with symptoms of pneumonia, dehydration and complications associated with HIV. She remained in intensive care until her death.

An autopsy is pending to determine the cause.

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Hernandez is the sixth detainee to die in ICE custody since Oct. 1.

Several immigrant advocacy groups, including Pueblo Sin Fronteras, Diversidad Sin Fronteras and Al Otro Lado, say Hernandez died due to negligence by immigration officials.

"During her first week in the United States, Roxy's body and spirit quickly deteriorated. Why incarcerate and torture her like this?" a joint statement by groups said.

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The groups added Hernandez was cold, lacked adequate food and medical care and was held in a cell with the lights turned on 24 hours a day.

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"All she wanted was freedom from abuse," advocacy group NewNowNext said in a tweet. "She ended up dying in ICE custody."

The agency said all detainees receive medical, dental and a mental health intake screening "within 12 hours of arriving at each detention facility," and a "full health assessment within 14 days" of entering custody. ICE also said there's access to daily sick calls and 24-hour emergency care.

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Flor Bermudez, legal director of the Transgender Law Center, said it's "alarming" the transgender community faces transphobic violence while in detention.

"Paired with the abuse we know transgender people regularly suffer in ICE detention, the death of Ms. Hernández sends the message that transgender people are disposable and do not deserve dignity, safety, or even life," TLC Deputy Director Isa Noyola said in a statement.

Hernandez had crossed into the United States at least three times before, in 2005, 2009 and 2014.

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