Transgender woman dies in ICE custody on the first day of Pride

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ohana Medina died Saturday in ICE Custody. (Image: Diversidad Sin Ffonteras, Facebook via Common Dreams)

Johana Medina died Saturday in ICE Custody. (Image: Diversidad Sin Ffonteras, Facebook via Common Dreams)

By Eoin Higgins, staff writer

EL PASO — A Salvadoran trans woman died in ICE custody on June 1, the first day of Pride Month. 

Johana Medina was a migrant from El Salvador. She was seeking asylum in the U.S.

Known to her friends as Joa, Johana passed away Saturday night from complications due to HIV/AIDS. Her death was announced on the Diversidad Sin Fronteras Facebook page on Sunday. 

In a statement, Casa Migrante trans leader Grecia, who was close with Johana, said that ICE agents ignored Johana’s pleas for help as her illness became worse while in custody.

“For weeks, she pleaded for medical help, referring to health problems caused by complications with HIV/AIDS,” said Grecia. “After two months of suffering, Joana became extremely ill and unconscious forcing ICE to take her to Las Palmas del Sol Hospital in El Paso, Texas.”

Grecia visited Johana in the intensive care unit at the hospital and likened her friend’s condition to that of Roxana Hernández, a trans woman who died in ICE custody in May 2018 under still unclear circumstances. 

“When I looked at her I said that what happened a year ago to Roxana in the month of May could happen to Joa right in there,” said Grecia. “And it did.”

At least 25 people have died in ICE custody over the past two years, including six children. Conditions in holding facilities, as Common Dreams reported Friday, are so bad that overcrowding is making it hard for people to breathe. 

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