ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Three U.S. senators want federal officials to publicly release information about the circumstances surrounding the death of a Honduran transgender migrant who was in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Roxsana Hernandez, 33, died in May at an Albuquerque hospital where she was admitted after showing symptoms of pneumonia, dehydration and complications associated with HIV. The New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator confirmed Thursday it has yet to complete an autopsy report.
Hernandez arrived in the United States in the spring as part of a highly publicized caravan of Central American asylum seekers. Her death sparked protests, with immigrant and LGBTQ advocates saying her case underscores concerns that transgender migrants in detention facilities often do not receive adequate medical care.
Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, both of New Mexico, and Sen. Kamala Harris of California sent a letter this week to top officials with ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The three Democrats contend that federal officials are responsible for publishing an initial report within 30 days when someone dies while in custody and that a final report is due within two months.
“It has been over 180 days since Ms. Hernandez was pronounced dead and no such report has been publicly released,” their letter states. “ICE’s failure to release this report diminishes the systemic, traumatic, and in this case fatal, violence that transgender individuals experience daily as a result of their gender identity.”
Federal officials have said previously they were awaiting the results of the state autopsy.
The senators also requested documentation on the training that officers, agents and contractors undergo related to the processing, care and safety of transgender detainees.
The request comes after an attorney representing Hernandez’s family threatened to sue over claims she did not receive adequate medical care and was physically abused.
Immigration authorities have maintained that Hernandez wasn’t abused while in their custody.
After arriving in the United States, Hernandez was taken into custody in San Diego and later transferred to El Paso, Texas, before being taken to the Cibola County Detention Center in western New Mexico.
She was housed at the center’s transgender unit for a day before being admitted to a local hospital. She was then transferred to the Albuquerque hospital, where she died several days later.
Federal officials announced Hernandez’s death May 25 , saying she was the sixth detainee to die in custody since Oct. 1, 2017.
According to immigration authorities, Hernandez twice illegally entered the United States between 2005 and 2009. She was allowed to return to Mexico each time because she claimed Mexican nationality when encountered by immigration officials.
In 2006 and 2009, she was convicted of theft, prostitution and other charges in two separate cases in Texas.
In 2014, Hernandez illegally re-entered the U.S. a third time, was arrested and removed.