ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The family of a transgender asylum seeker has filed a wrongful death and personal injury claim against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security for “denying her civil rights and thereby causing her death.”
Johana Medina Leon was held in the Otero County processing center since April 11 after she asked for asylum at a legal port of entry and passed a credible fear interview. She was released from detention on her own recognizance when she became deathly ill and had to be hospitalized on May 28.
“Johana deserved to be protected by this country as a human being seeking asylum. Instead, she was detained, humiliated, mistreated, and dumped at a hospital where she was not on the threshold of liberty; but, instead, on death’s door,” said Christopher Dolan, the attorney based in San Francisco who is representing Medina Leon’s family.
The 25-year-old nurse from El Salvador asked for IV fluids while in ICE custody as her condition worsened in April and May “… and, since she was being denied care, she asked to be deported so she could receive treatment,” according to the news release announcing the claim. “Her request was ignored, and her condition continued to deteriorate” until she was found unconscious and hospitalized, according to Dolan. Over the next several days, Medina Leon was able to speak to her boyfriend and family members and told them her condition was worsening. Her family in El Salvador was notified that she died of pneumonia June 1. She had asked for an HIV test, which was positive, according to ICE.
ICE officials were not available for comment Wednesday but typically do not discuss pending litigation. The wrongful death claim is a necessary step before filing a lawsuit.
Dolan said while the famous poem on the Statue of Liberty reads “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. The Trump Administration seems to have re-written the poem, to say ‘ … and I will send them back abused, terrorized and dead.’ ”