TLC Case | Issue area: Immigration, Prisons
Transgender Law Center (TLC) and the Law Office of Andrew R. Free 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. 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, ultimately dying in custody less than a month after presenting herself for asylum.
An independent autopsy conducted by TLC and the Law Office of Andrew R. Free found that she had deep bruising, and was severly dehydration and suffered from complications related to untreated HIV. TLC and R. Andrew Free were retained by Roxsana’s suvriving siblings to file to sue ICE for the unteimley death of Roxsana. Our offices made several records requests to ICE, CBP and their oversight bodies for records related to Roxsana’s death and surrounding cirumstances. When the agencies did not produce documents, the legal team sued in federal court to compel their production. They have received some documents which reveal that there was video surveillance fotoage of Roxsana at CIbola detention faclitiy which was destroyed despite an active investigation into Roxsana’s death. The documents also reveal several failures by CBP and ICE officials to follow protocols when detaining people living with HIV, including providing antiretroviral medication. The legal team is gearing up to file a federal tort claims act against ICE.
On May 14th, 2020, Transgender Law Center (TLC), the Law Office of R. Andrew Free, and the Law Office of Daniel Yohalem announced that they have filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico against Management & Training Corporation, LaSalle Corrections Transport LLC, Global Precision Systems LLC, TransCor America LLC, and CoreCivic, Inc. The lawsuit alleges gross negligence leading to the death of Roxsana Hernandez, a Honduran transgender asylum-seeker living with HIV, while she was being transported from San Diego, California to Cibola, New Mexico.
Youngers v. MTC, et al alleges a failure on the part of named entities to provide adequate medical care, sufficient food, water, access to a restroom, and an opportunity to sleep even though Roxsana was visibly and symptomatically ill. Further, the defendants ignored the pleas of fellow asylum seekers who expressed concern for Roxsana’s condition. Notably, using Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the plaintiffs claim that failure to provide medical care and safe transport to Roxsana amounted to discrimination against her as a person who was living with HIV and needed medical assistance during transport.
This is the third filing specifically alleging wrongdoing by CoreCivic in recent weeks. The ACLU filed a federal class action lawsuit naming CoreCivic and demanding that they ensure that the Central Arizona Florence Correctional Complex comply with public health guidelines to protect incarcerated people from COVID-19. Additionally, two detention officers at Otay Mesa Detention Center have filed lawsuits against CoreCivic for creating a dangerous workplace and failing to protect them from COVID-19.
In April, TLC, Ballard Spahr LLP, and the Rapid Defense Network filed a class action lawsuit demanding the release of all transgender people in civil immigration detention so that they may take precautions against the COVID-19 pandemic. The filing included testimony from trans migrants currently in immigration detention that make it clear that the abhorrent conditions that Roxsana was subjected to are still the norm.