Incomplete NM OMI autopsy report ignores troubling details regarding Roxsana’s care while in custody 

(Albuquerque, NM) — Today the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator (NM OMI) released the autopsy report for Roxsana Hernandez, a 33-year-old transgender woman and asylum-seeker from Honduras who died while in immigration enforcement custody after seeking protection and turning herself in at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in early May 2018.

“The NM OMI dragged their feet in releasing Roxsana’s autopsy report only to let ICE run the show and use the report to do their dirty work of shirking responsibility for her care. It’s absolutely appalling that they presented their findings to ICE prior to offering those findings to Roxsana’s family’s legal representatives,” said Lynly Egyes, director of litigation for Transgender Law Center (TLC), about the report.

Nearly a year after after Roxsana’s death, significant, troubling questions linger about material discrepancies between the NM OMI report released today and the medical and detention records Transgender Law Center and the Law Office of R. Andrew Free’s investigation has uncovered. NM OMI’s report has demonstrable factual inaccuracies ranging from the date Roxsana entered federal custody to the date on which she received emergency medical treatment that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) previously failed to disclose in its detainee death review.

Days after she presented for asylum and was detained, Department of Homeland Security officials rushed Roxsana to an emergency department in Chula Vista, California. Once there, she was diagnosed with cough, congestion, fever, and unmedicated HIV. Despite the overwhelming medical consensus as to the standard of care in such situations, she was not admitted for treatment or monitored. 

“To frame this as a comprehensive investigation into Roxsana’s death is completely disingenuous,” adds Andrew Free. “We made weekly calls to the Office of the Medical Investigator for months. If they’d truly wanted to grapple with the information detailed in the independent autopsy report or medical records we uncovered through our investigation all they had to do was ask.”

Last November, Transgender Law Center (TLC), Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project – BLMP, Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement (Familia), and the Law Office of R. Andrew Free announced that a Notice of Wrongful Death Tort Claim in New Mexico had been sent, the first step in holding all parties responsible for Roxsana’s death accountable. The government continues to keep secret vital information from the public and the next step is to take them to court to demand they release the information. 

“It’s disturbing that instead of acknowledging their role in creating the conditions that led to her death, ICE has instead focused on criminalizing Roxsana,” said Jorge Gutierrez, executive director of Familia. “From dead-naming her in this autopsy report to not engaging with the information previously presented by Roxsana’s family’s legal team, it’s clear that the NM OMI report offers an incomplete and convenient for ICE narrative that does not offer the final word on who is responsible for Roxsana’s death.” 

Transgender Law Center and the Law Office of R. Andrew Free are working with a team of leading medical practitioners to assess the NM OMI report. Some of the preliminary findings include:

  • NM OMI’s autopsy revealed new evidence of blunt-force trauma to the back of Roxsana’s head that was not discussed in their press release.
  • The pathologist who conducted NM OMI’s examination neither conducted the dissection that originally revealed the deep tissue injuries found during an independent autopsy nor reviewed the underlying photographs taken of that autopsy. 
  • NM OMI had no explanation for or response to the handcuff injuries found on Roxsana’s wrists.