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Transgender asylum seeker dies after leaving ICE custody

By Ed Adamczyk
A crowd forms as names are called outside of the National Institute of Migration in Tapachula, Mexico on May 6. Photo by Ariana Drehsler/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/ed2c5507c65de4eab1eaf12958712923/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
A crowd forms as names are called outside of the National Institute of Migration in Tapachula, Mexico on May 6. Photo by Ariana Drehsler/UPI | License Photo

June 3 (UPI) -- A transgender asylum seeker who was held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement died four days after she was released from custody, U.S. authorities said on Monday.

Johana Melinda Leon, 25, fled from El Salvador to the United States seeking political asylum. She complained of chest pains on Tuesday while in custody at the Otero County, N.M., ICE processing center and was sent to the Del Sol Medical Center in El Paso. She died at the hospital on Saturday, ICE officials said, the day she requested an HIV test and learned it had come back positive.

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The cause of her death has not been determined.

"This is yet another unfortunate example of an individual who illegally enters the United States with an untreated, unscreened medical condition," said Corey A. Price, field office director for ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations in El Paso.

The Otero County detention center has been noted for alleged poor treatment of LGBT asylum seekers. The American Civil Liberties' Union and the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, in a letter to ICE in March, cited "unconscionable conditions" and an "unsafe environment" for transgender detainees.

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Officials said Leon was detained April 11 after presenting herself as an asylum seeker. She passed an interview a month later and was released when she entered the hospital.

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