Immigration and Customs Enforcement says the family of a trans woman who died in their custody must foot costs themselves to fly the body home and host a funeral.
And now Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, a national organizing group centered on Latinx folks, announced a fundraiser to help the family deal with the expense.
“Johana Medina was a 25 year old translatina who migrated from El Salvador and was detained at the Otero detention facility. She died while in ICE custody on June 1st the first day of PRIDE,” a fundraising page at Mijente reads.
“Mijente, Familia: TQLM, Transgender Law Center, Black LGBTQ+ Migrant Project, Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee, and Translatin@ Coalition are fundraising to help send Johana back home, cover funeral/burial costs, and to support the family in their time of grief and need.”
The fundraiser has a goal of raising $10,000. As of Monday morning, more than half of that had already been raised.
Diversidad Sin Fronteras (Diversity Without Borders), a human rights group advocating on behalf of Central and South American LGBTQ refugees, announced the El Salvador refugee’s death on June 1, which marks the first day of Pride Month.
OJ Pitaya, an activist with Diversidad Sin Fronteras, said Medina died after waiting three months to make a case for asylum, only to be told by Customs and Border Patrol that she was not transgender.
Medina’s boyfriend told Diversidad Sin Fronteras that in May, Medina’s health reportedly started to fail. She wasn’t released to a hospital until she lost consciousness.
On May 25, officials transferred her to Las Palmas del Sol hospital, where she died days later.
Medina’s death came just over a year after the death of another trans refugee, Roxsana Herndandez.
Queer Latinx activists have since called for a dramatic change in policies for LGBTQ migrants seeking asylum.
“It is unconscionable that ICE let Johana Medina die,” reads a statement from Familia. “According to people who knew her, Johana pleaded for medical attention, which was repeatedly denied by ICE. She is the second known trans woman to die under ICE’s custody while seeking asylum under the current administration…
“We demand that ICE immeditaley release all trans and queer immigrants. It is clear that ICE poses a clear and present danger to all immigrants in their detention centers.”
QLatinx echoed that call.
“We stand with our partners at @familiatqlm and demand that ICE release all queer and transgender detainees, as they cannot be trusted to ensure their safety or security while in detention,” reads a tweet from that organization.