Trans Woman Dies Following ICE Custody at Facility Accused of Anti-LGBTQ Abuses

Johana Medina Leon's death follows the passing last year of Roxsana Hernández, a trans woman who died while in ICE custody.

A transgender woman from El Salvador died following being held in ICE custody this past weekend after she fell ill at a New Mexico detention center where LGBTQ immigrants have complained of abuse.

Johana Medina Leon, 25, passed away on Saturday, June 1, the first day of Pride Month, at Del Sol Medical Center in El Paso, Texas, according to ICE officials, The Washington Post reports.

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Leon complained of chest pains while at the Otero County Processing Center, in New Mexico, and was taken to the hospital on the same day she was paroled from ICE custody, having successfully passed an interview on May 18 to determine if she had a credible fear of persecution if forced to return to El Salvador. She also requested an HIV test on the day she was taken to the hospital, which came back positive.

“This is yet another unfortunate example of an individual who illegally enters the United States with an untreated, unscreened medical condition,” Corey A. Price, field office director for ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations in El Paso, said in a statement.

“There is a crisis at our southern border with a mass influx of aliens lured by the lies of human smugglers who profit without regard for human life or well-being. Many of these aliens attempt to enter the United States with untreated or unknown diseases, which are not diagnosed until they are examined while in detention.”

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Nathan Craig, of Advocate Visitors with Immigrants in Detention (AVID) in the Chihuahuan Desert, said he had been in contact with two of the four transgender women at the facility in Otero, who complained of the conditions and told Craig that all four were sick and not being given adequate care.

In March, lawyers for the ACLU, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, and the Santa Fe Dreamers Project sent a complaint to ICE on behalf of a dozen LGBTQ detainees at the New Mexico facility, claiming they suffered from sexual harassment and abuse at the hands of other detainees, verbal harassment from guards, and that ICE officials denied hormones to transgender detainees, in violation of their own regulations. When detainees raised issues with the way they were being treated, they allege they were put in solitary confinement.

In May of last year, a transgender woman from Honduras, Roxsana Hernández, 33, died while in ICE custody in another New Mexico detention center.

An autopsy showed she died from complications related to HIV/AIDS, as well as from dehydration. It also showed signs she had suffered abuse. The Transgender Law Center has filed suit, alleging mistreatment by ICE led to Hernandez’s death. Ice has denied the allegation.

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