Transgender Law Center (TLC) and the Law Office of R. Andrew Free filed a lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and DHS’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties on Friday demanding the release of any and all documents about Roxsana Hernandez while in ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody. 

Roxsana was a 33 year old trans woman from Honduras with dreams of opening her own beauty salon. She died in ICE custody on May 25, 2018, two weeks after entering the United States to seek asylum. Earlier this year, TLC and the Law Office of R. Andrew Free filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to shine a light on what led to Roxsana’s death at the request of her sisters and after public outcry. 

“Roxsana’s death has had a huge impact on the trans and queer Latinx community,” said Jorge Gutierrez, executive director of Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement. “Familia members organized more than a dozen events across the country to commemorate her and mark the one-year since she was taken from us by ICE. Our members are demanding #JusticeforRoxsana and an end to trans detention. Roxsana was loved and she deserves justice.”

The complaint filed provides an account of what Roxsana experienced while in U.S. custody based on previously released medical records and interviews with several other trans asylum seekers who were detained with her. 

She was taken into custody by CBP in San Ysidro, California on May 9, 2018 and held in the hieleras, where a cough she had worsened and her health deteriorated . Underscoring the negligence and disregard for human life that is endemic of immigration enforcement is the fact that it was only after other trans asylum seekers went on a lunch strike that CBP officials responded to their requests for medical attention for Roxsana and took her to Scripps Medical Center in Chula Vista, California on May 11, 2018. 

“ICE is breaking the law. Along with DHS and the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, ICE is not sharing information that should be publicly available about what happened to a human being who was in their care because they know the facts don’t look good for them,” said Lynly Egyes, TLC’s Legal Director. “Roxsana’s family deserves to know what happened to her. This lack of transparency is frightening from an agency that currently has over 52,000 people in its care.”

“A few days after marking the anniversary of Roxsana Hernandez’s death, we are devastated and outraged by reports that Johana Medina, a transgender woman and refugee from El Salvador, has died in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody. 

Devastated and outraged, but not surprised. ICE, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and all the agencies and companies responsible for Roxsana’s death have only grown bolder in their cruelty, inhumanity, and lawlessness. These deaths are a direct result of U.S. government policy, and will continue unless we force dramatic change. 

We are still learning details about Johana and her passing on the first day of Pride month. But we pledge to continue our work with Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement and the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project towards justice for all LGBTQ migrants – with a focus on the Black, trans, and HIV positive migrants who are most intensely targeted. Black trans women in particular are frequently punished in detention with solitary confinement, a form of torture. 

On Friday, Transgender Law Center filed suit against ICE and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for illegally withholding information about the death of Roxsana Hernandez, a 33-year-old transgender woman from Honduras who died on May 25, 2018. With the Law Office of R. Andrew Free, we have demanded the release of any and all documents about Roxsana Hernandez while in ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody. This filing is the next step in our ongoing legal campaign to hold all parties responsible for Roxsana’s death accountable. 

Justice for Roxsana means justice for Johana. Justice for Johana and Roxsana means an end to the conditions that killed them, conditions that transgender people in migrant prisons across the country continue to endure.  

Today, we mourn Johana, and renew our pledge to seek justice for her, for Roxsana, and for all Black and brown trans women detained in migrant prisons.” 

The complaint and exhibits can be found here: