Independent Autopsy Report Reveals Roxsana Hernandez’s Death Largely Preventable

Video from press conference embedded on right

San Diego – Today Transgender Law Center (TLC) and the Law Office of Andrew R. Free announced that they have filed a Notice of Wrongful Death Tort Claim in New Mexico, the first step in holding all parties responsible for Roxsana Hernandez’s death accountable. They were joined by Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project – BLMP and Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement (Familia), who have advocated for an end to detention for trans and queer migrants.

“An independent autopsy report reveals that Roxsana was shackled for a long time and very tightly, enough to cause deep bruising on her wrists,” said Lynly Egyes, TLC’s Director of Litigation. “She also had deep bruising and injuries consistent with physical abuse with a baton or asp while she was handcuffed, according to an examination of the tissue by an independent expert board-certified forensic pathologist. In the final days of her life, she was transferred from California to Washington to New Mexico, shackled for days on end. If she was lucky, she was given a bottle of water to drink. Her cause of death was dehydration and complications related to HIV. Her death was entirely preventable.”

Roxsana Hernandez was a Honduran transgender woman and an asylum seeker who arrived with a caravan organized by Diversidad Sin Fronteras. She arrived in Tijuana and sought asylum by presenting herself at the San Ysidro Port of Entry (SYPOE) in May. What followed was a hellish ordeal of being held in U.S. Customs & Border Protection custody in the notoriously cold holding areas, known as “hieleras,” growing increasingly ill as a result of the inhumane conditions. She was repeatedly denied access to medical care she begged for, only able to see a doctor after days of vomiting and diarrhea.

“We will continue to uplift Roxsana’s story and to continue to hold immigration enforcement accountable for her death,” said Jennicet Gutierrez, community organizer and advocate with Familia. ‘We will continue to organize to protect the lives of all trans and queer migrants because what our community needs is asylum not detention. Familia will continue to organize and demand for the abolishment of ICE, CBP, police, and all prisons.”

Currently there are dozens of LGBTQ migrants in Tijuana whose lives are being held hostage by a morally reprehensible and punitive presidential administration that would have them wait in a country that has openly shown violence and hostility towards migrants, and pointed cruelty towards LGBTQ people.

“This last week, as many people across the country enjoyed a warm dinner with their family, the Trump Administration is considering basically signing execution orders for the LGBTQ migrants in Tijuana awaiting their opportunity to seek asylum,” said BLMP representatives Dora King and Jerome Jones. “Among those waiting for their opportunity to ask for asylum are Black LGBTQ migrants who are particularly vulnerable to violence, including detention and deportation, while in immigration proceedings. The Trump administration’s immigration policy is purely racist.”

Advocates point to the conditions Udoka Nweke faced when he presented himself for asylum also at SYPOE in December 2016. He was detained for nearly two years before being released in September after being held in solitary confinement and attempting suicide. His testimony upon being released from Adelanto Detention Facility corroborated a scathing report by Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General that points towards a drastic overhaul necessary in Adelanto. The report listed as areas of concern:

  • Nooses in Detainee Cells
  • Improper and Overly Restrictive Segregation
  • Untimely and Inadequate Detainee Medical Care

“Immigration prisons are teeming with human rights violations,” said civil rights attorney Andrew Free. “From forced labor to inadequate access to medical care, they are horrific places to lock people up. We have requested records from the relevant federal agencies regarding  the conditions Roxsana was kept in under the Freedom for Information Act. In the next few weeks, if they do not turn over those files we will be filing a suit against them. We will not rest until those responsible for Roxsana’s suffering are held to account, and until the systems of oppression that gave rise to her suffering are abolished.”

TLC, BLMP, Familia, and the Law Offices of Andrew Free have been working with Roxsana’s family in seeking justice. Roxsana’s sisters shared the following statement with TLC:

“Roxsana Hernandez was our sister and it was an injustice to have her die the way she did. 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. 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.”

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Transgender Law Center (TLC) is the largest national trans-led organization advocating self-determination for all people. Grounded in legal expertise and committed to racial justice, TLC employs a variety of community-driven strategies to keep transgender and gender nonconforming people alive, thriving, and fighting for liberation.

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Oakland, CA 94612-0976

phone: 510.587.9696
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