FULL LETTER BELOW
June 1, 2018 Kirstjen M. NielsenSecretary of Homeland SecurityU.S. Department of Homeland SecurityNebraska Avenue Complex3801 Nebraska Avenue NWWashington, DC 20528 Thomas D. HomanDeputy Director and Senior Official Performing the Duties of the DirectorU.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement500 12th St. SWWashington, D.C. 20536
Dear Kirstjen M. Nielsen and Thomas D. Homan: We the undersigned organizations demand an immediate and comprehensive investigation into and response to the death of Roxsana Hernandez, a 33 year-old transgender woman from Honduras. After a harrowing journey to seek safety and asylum in the United States, Roxsana died on May 25, 2018, after 16 days in the custody of Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). According to ICE, Roxsana was processed by CBP on May 9, 2018, and placed in freezing cold holding cells known as “hieleras” or “iceboxes.” One week later, she was transferred to Cibola County Correctional Facility, and then to a New Mexico hospital where ICE claims she died of cardiac arrest. Roxsana’s death is an outrageous tragedy that throws into stark relief the inadequate and inhumane treatment of transgender immigrants in CBP and ICE detention. The immigration detention system is simply incapable of handling the acute needs of transgender people, particularly transgender women, fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries. Trans immigrants with histories of significant trauma are particularly threatened by systemic failures in the machinery of immigration detention. Recent studies and reports indicate a horrifying pattern of mistreatment for transgender women in ICE custody, including sexual violence, denial of medical care, extended periods of solitary confinement, and discrimination, abuse, and humiliation on the part of facility staff and ICE/CBP personnel.
Roxsana’s needless death must spur CBP and ICE to action to prevent further harm to other transgender immigrants.
1. The immediate launch of an independent investigation into the circumstances that led to Roxsana’s death, including every aspect of her treatment following her detention by CBP on May 9, 2018.
2. The immediate adoption and implementation of a policy against detaining transgender people in CBP or ICE custody. Transgender “pods,” like the one in Cibola, have proven to be grossly ineffective at keeping transgender immigrants safe.
3. The immediate medical screening for chronic diseases of all transgender people in ICE or CBP custody, following protocol consistent with national clinical practice guidelines. In any instances where there may have been a failure to provide necessary, adequate, and appropriate medical treatment, swift action must be taken to develop and implement plans of care.
4. The release of transgender people currently in ICE and CBP custody, in light of a demonstrated inability to guarantee their safety. ICE must recognize the tremendous vulnerability of transgender immigrants as a prevailing factor in granting parole to eligible asylum seekers. Transgender immigrants who are not eligible for parole should be released under other means available, such as on their own recognizance or under an order of supervision.
The Department of Homeland Security must meaningfully address the inhumane and deadly conditions for transgender people in CBP custody and ICE detention. These shameful deficiencies are long-standing and well-documented, and there is no indication that there has been any substantial effort to correct them. At this point, the release of transgender immigrants is a moral imperative.
ORGANIZATION NAMEORGANIZATION NAMEORGANIZATION NAME