TLC and the Law Office of R. Andrew Free Announce Filing of Federal Tort Claim Act complaint Against DHS, CBP, and ICE

Today Transgender Law Center (TLC) and the Law Office of R. Andrew Free announced they filed a Federal Tort Claim Act (FTCA) complaint against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). DHS, CBP, and ICE have until May 25, 2020, six months from the day the complaint was submitted, to respond before the complaint is filed in federal court.

“ICE, CBP, and private prison companies like CoreCivic, treat migrants with a devastating amount cruelty — cruelty that is reinforced by the toxic rhetoric and policies of the Trump administration,” said TLC attorney Dale Melchert. “We’re making documents we receive from these agencies public because we must remember that in custody deaths are preventable. There are people every day heading into work for these agencies, making life or death decisions in the name of the U.S. government. That is why we hold the U.S. government responsible for the actions that led to Roxsana’s death.”

The complaint lists ten charges under which TLC and the Law Office of R. Andrew Free hold DHS, ICE, and CBP responsible for Roxsana’s death. ICE, CBP, ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC), Correct Care Solutions employees and their contractors and subcontractors, “failed to provide her with adequate medical care despite the fact that she was visibly ill from the time she was taken into CBP custody until her death, and CBP and ICE employees knew she was HIV positive and without antiretroviral medication, violating the agencies’ own policies, causing her emotional distress, physical harm, and death.”

Documents received from ICE and released today include the transcript of Roxsana’s credible fear interview, a hospital log from Roxsana’s time in Cibola General Hospital and Lovelace Medical Center, and a case log from DHS’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). Together these documents illustrate a vast disconnect between immigration enforcement employees and the human beings they come into contact with and are responsible for. During Roxsana’s credible fear interview, the DHS officer veers away from engaging with Roxsana’s reasons for migrating and instead focuses on how she reached the U.S.-Mexico border. Roxsana’s hospital log is a handwritten account nearly 50 pages authored by different guards charged with the responsibility of checking that restraints on Roxsana’s wrists and ankles are secure. The guards noted when the restraints were removed for medical procedures or for the bed to be cleaned, and when they were promptly secured again. The OIG case log shows that an investigation into Roxsana’s death was opened and closed by them within two hours on June 12, 2018.

“The U.S. government and their agents made decisions that contributed to Roxsana’s death,” said Úmi Vera, campaign and organizing director for Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement. “We’ve heard from our members who’ve survived being incarcerated in detention centers that the inadequate care that Roxsana received is similar to the lack of medical attention they received, even when requested through formal procedures. Many of them feel lucky to be alive. All of these federal agencies and private prisons must be held accountable to prevent the deaths of other trans and queer migrants.”

In October TLC, the Law Office of R. Andrew Free, and the Law Office of Lynn Coyle filed a lawsuit against CoreCivic, a contractor of Cibola County, to turn over all records, including video footage, related to Roxsana’s untimely death.  Email correspondence between ICE Headquarters and ICE Albuquerque from August 2018 indicated that video footage of Roxsana in Cibola County Correctional Center (CCCC) had been viewed by ICE through the course of their internal investigation into her death. The email alludes to the video being “no longer available” citing the period of time it is preserved is 90 days. This video was not turned over to Roxsana’s family’s legal team.

Another document received from ICE and released today underscores ICE’s obligation to preserve video footage. In an email dated June 4, 2018, ICE Headquarters sent ICE’s El Paso Field Office, which is in charge of CCCC, a memo citing that “all facility video footage for the following date(s): May 16-17, 2018” must be archived and retained.

The documents are available to view here:

Federal Tort Claims Act Complaint Submitted to DHS, ICE, and CBP 

Roxsana Hernandez’s Credible Fear Interview Transcript (Content Warning: Includes graphic details.)

ICE Hospital Log for Roxsana Hernandez (Content Warning: Includes graphic details.)

DHS Office of Inspector General Case Log

June 4, 2018 Email Correspondence between ICE Headquarters to ICE’s El Paso Field Office

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