Findings from an autopsy of Roxsana Hernández, a transgender migrant from Central America who died in federal custody earlier this year, show signs of physical abuse.
Hernández, 33, was held for 16 days by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and died of dehydration and complications from HIV this May, reports The New York Times. She was detained after attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border to seek asylum from persecution and discrimination in her home country of Honduras.
LGBTQ equality and immigration reform advocates were quick to raise concerns about her treatment at the hands of ICE officials: Other detainees in her autopsy report recalled that Hernández, who was HIV-positive, endured severe dehydration and starvation “over multiple days with no medical evaluation or treatment, until she was gravely ill.”
The autopsy report also indicated signs of physical trauma to Hernández’s body, including deep hemorrhaging of the soft tissue and muscles over her ribs, according to The Times.
In a statement released shortly after her death in May, ICE confirmed that Hernández was the “sixth detainee to pass away in ICE custody in fiscal year 2018, which began October 1, 2017.”
The autopsy was arranged independent of the U.S. government by the Transgender Law Center (TLC), who is suing ICE on behalf of Hernández. The lawsuit is part of an ongoing push for justice in the wake of Hernández’s untimely death: In July, HRC announced it was filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for details about her death that ICE officials refused to disclose.
Today, @HRC sent Freedom of Information Act requests to @ICEgov and @CBP for the release of all records related to the detention and death of Roxsana Hernandez, a trans woman who died while in the custody of ICE after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. https://t.co/zwbwoSU4WU
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) July 26, 2018
“[Hernández’s] death was entirely preventable,” Lynly Egyes, TLC’s director of litigation, said at a recent press conference. “In the final days of her life, she was transferred from California to Washington to New Mexico, shackled for days on end. If she was lucky, she was given a bottle of water to drink. Her cause of death was dehydration and complications related to HIV.”
Still, representatives from ICE maintain that Hernández wasn’t mistreated under their watch.
“[ICE] cannot speak to the validity of the private autopsy,” Danielle Bennett, a spokesperson for ICE, told The Times. “However, allegations that she was abused in ICE custody are false.”
Hernández is remembered by her friends, loved ones, and fellow ICE detainees as a humble, sincere person who loved makeup and was never afraid to open up about her personal struggles.