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Senators Demand Answers on Trans Refugee Death


Roxsana Hernandez died this spring in ICE custody. The Transgender Law Center says she faced mistreatment here.

Three U.S. senators demanded answers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials about the death in May of HIV-positive trans refugee Roxsana Hernandez.

In a letter to ICE officials, New Mexico Republicans Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and California Democrat Kamala Harris called for explanation of the death and a six-month delay in any report explaining the conditions faced by the Honduran woman after seeking asylum here.

"Reports suggest that while she was held at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, Ms. Hernandez endured freezing temperatures and was denied adequate food, water, and medical care," the letter reads.

"During her transport between facilities by ICE, she vomited to the extent other detainees begged authorities to provide her with water and proper medical care."

The 33-year-old woman arrived at the border this spring as part of a caravan of Central American asylum seekers. But she died in ICE custody shortly afterward in what activists immediately called a preventable death.

The senators cited an investigation by the Transgender Law Center that contradicts some of ICE's public statements about the death.

"According to ICE, Lovelace Medical Center preliminarily listed Ms. Hernandez's cause of death as cardiac arrest. The Transgender Law Center had an independent autopsy performed that suggested severe complications of dehydration on top of an H.I.V. infection and also suggested that Ms. Hernandez was beaten with a baton or similar object while she was restrained by handcuffs."

Udall tweeted ICE must act with transparency and work better to ensure the safety of trans refugees.

"The public needs to know what happened & what policies are in place to protect transgender detainees," the Republican tweeted.

Harris, a likely presidential contender in 2020, also issued a specific comment on the letter:

"Congress requires ICE to publish a finalized report for deaths in their custody within 60 days. It's been 195 days since Roxsana Hernandez, a transgender woman, died -- and there's no report," she wrote.

"That's why I'm calling for the immediate release of documents related to her death."

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