A transgender woman who participated in the Central American caravan earlier this month passed away Friday from cardiac arrest while in the custody of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, BuzzFeed News reports.
After being treated at a hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico for symptoms of pneumonia, dehydration and complications associated with HIV, Roxsana Hernandez was transferred through air ambulance to Albuquerque’s Lovelace Medical Center last week, where she remained in the intensive care unit until she died on Friday.
Immigrant rights activists are blaming the late 33-year-old woman’s death on ICE.
“Roxy died due to medical negligence by US immigration authorities,” immigrant advocacy group Pueblo Sin Fronteras said in a statement. “Why incarcerate and torture her like this? She had a home waiting for her in the United States. They could have let her go there. If they had, she would still be with us.”
As soon as Hernandez, who encountered several instances of violence and threats in Honduras, reached San Ysidro port on May 9, she asked for asylum. Instead, Pueblo Sin Fronteras, which helped organize the caravan, alleges that she was detained by US Customs and Border Protection and placed in holding cells that have been nicknamed “iceboxes” because of how cold they are. While there, the woman, frozen, was also given inadequate food and medical care, the group says. On May 16, she was transferred to a transgender unit in Milan, New Mexico, and was hospitalized the next day.
“Everybody’s human rights are violated. From the moment they enter there are no guarantees,” Irving Mondragón, co-founder of the LGBTQ migrant advocacy collective Diversidad sin Fronteras, told BuzzFeed News. “People have said that she was safe because she made it to the US, that the hardest part was over. But it’s not true — the US is an imperial democracy and tyrannical. Asking for asylum can lead to death.”
Hernandez joined more than 1,200 migrants on the caravan out of fear for her life in her homeland. Just four months before taking the trek north, she was violated by members of MS-13, who yelled, “We don’t want you in this neighborhood, you fucking faggot” before raping her.
“Four of them raped me and as a result I got HIV,” she previously told the news site. “Trans people in my neighborhood are killed and chopped into pieces, then dumped inside potato bags.”
Hernandez was hesitant about coming to the U.S., from which she had previously been deported three times and has family that does not accept her, but made the trip because she believed her life depended on it.
“I didn’t want to come to Mexico — I wanted to stay in Honduras but I couldn’t,” Hernandez said of joining the caravan to the U.S. in Mexico. “They kill trans people in Honduras. I’m scared of that.”
Instead of refuge, however, Hernandez’s life ended, and organizers, like Jennicet Gutiérrez of Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, are fighting to ensure that ICE is held accountable.
“She was trying to find safety in the United States and sadly she’s no longer with us. We demand answers and justice for Roxsana,” she said.