Protesters rally outside courthouse over death of transgender immigrant

A group of about 50 to 100 activists from around the state and country gathered for a rally in Downtown Albuquerque on Monday morning to protest the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s treatment of detained gay and transgender migrants.

The protest, organized by the Transgender Law Center, Black LGBTQ+ Migrant Project, and Familia the Trans Queer Liberation Movement, marched through the streets and Civic Plaza before stopping in front of the federal courthouse in the intersection of Lomas and Fourth NW for a couple of hours. Protesters held signs calling for “Justice for Roxsana,” “Abolish ICE” and “End Trans Detention.” Albuquerque police officers positioned their vehicles to block traffic for the protest.

Roxsana Hernandez, also referred to as Roxana Hernandez in some news reports, was a transgender Honduran woman who was seeking asylum when she came to the U.S. last May. She was detained in San Diego and then transferred to the Cibola County Detention Center in New Mexico, where she fell ill due to complications from HIV. She died a couple of days later.

Umi Vera, an immigrant rights activist from Portland, Ore., working with Familia, said it was important for the protesters to come to New Mexico to honor Hernandez.

“We arrived here to be in solidarity with the efforts they have locally but also to demand a shutdown of the local detention center and all the detention centers,” Vera said.

The other case activist organizations have rallied around is the detainment of Udoka Nweke, a gay man seeking asylum from Nigeria, who has been held in ICE custody in California since 2016. Activists say he is not receiving adequate mental health care in custody.

Anna Castro, a media relations consultant with the Transgender Law Center, said the protest is meant to highlight the voices of migrants who are often overlooked in the fight to abolish ICE. The advocates are calling for the end of detention and deportation of transgender and gay migrants as well as the release of transgender people being held in immigration detention facilities.

“This is the beginning of what will be a national campaign to look at the abolish ICE movement from a different perspective,” Castro said.

The protest wrapped up shortly after noon.

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