Trans woman’s family sues over her death in ICE custody

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(Photo courtesy of the Transgender Law Center)

ALBUQUERQUE — The family of Roxsana Hernandez, an undocumented immigrant who died in ICE custody in 2018, has filed a lawsuit against the agency’s contractors.

The family is being represented by the Transgender Law Center (TLC), the Law Office of R. Andrew Free, and the Law Office of Daniel Yohalem. The lawsuit was filed on Thursday.

The lawsuit alleges gross negligence leading to the death of Roxsana Hernandez, a Honduran transgender asylum-seeker living with HIV, while she was being transported from San Diego, California to Cibola, New Mexico.

“Every private entity tasked with Roxsana’s care failed her,” said Dale Melchert, TLC’s staff attorney. “What we know about the short time that Roxsana was in immigration custody is that the officers tasked with transporting her saw her health deteriorate, heard her cries for help, and did nothing. She needlessly suffered as a result of their inaction.”

Youngers v. MTC, et al alleges a failure on the part of named entities to provide adequate medical care, sufficient food, water, access to a restroom, and an opportunity to sleep even though Hernandez was visibly and symptomatically ill. Further, the defendants ignored the pleas of fellow asylum seekers who expressed concern for Hernandez’s condition. Notably, using Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the plaintiffs claim that failure to provide medical care and safe transport to Hernandez amounted to discrimination against her as a person who was living with HIV and needed medical assistance during transport.

“CoreCivic, La Salle, and Management & Training Corporation, along with the other private companies named in our lawsuit receive federal funds in exchange for overseeing all the mechanisms that make our cruel system of immigration incarceration possible,” said Andrew Free. “Through our investigation into Roxsana’s death we’ve learned that these companies violated their federal agency contracts, their own standards of care, Roxsana’s rights, as well as the standards of care in the various states Roxsana travelled through. It’s horrifying that nearly two years after Roxsana’s death, they’re still receiving federal funds without any accountability for the many lives that have been lost on their watch.”

This is the third filing specifically alleging wrongdoing by CoreCivic in recent weeks. The ACLU filed a federal class action lawsuit naming CoreCivic and demanding that they ensure that the Central Arizona Florence Correctional Complex comply with public health guidelines to protect incarcerated people from COVID-19. Additionally, two detention officers at Otay Mesa Detention Center have filed lawsuits against CoreCivic for creating a dangerous workplace and failing to protect them from COVID-19.

In April, TLC, Ballard Spahr LLP, and the Rapid Defense Network filed a class action lawsuit demanding the release of all transgender people in civil immigration detention so that they may take precautions against the COVID-19 pandemic. The filing included testimony from trans migrants currently in immigration detention that make it clear that the abhorrent conditions that Hernandez was subjected to are still the norm.

Read the complaint below:

Download (PDF, 380KB)

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