HRC sent expanded Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) for the release of any and all records, including but not limited to letters, memos, emails, text messages, phone records, health reports, and other documents regarding any transgender detainees in ICE custody between January 21, 2017 and the present, as well as policies and procedures that guide treatment of transgender people in ICE custody.
This is a follow-up to an earlier FOIA request by HRC in July for all records related to the death of Roxana Hernández, a transgender woman, while in the custody of ICE and CBP.
Hernández reached the United States border on May 9, 2018, seeking asylum after fleeing Honduras due to the violence and discrimination she experienced based on her gender identity. She was held for five days by CBP before being processed into the United States and put into ICE custody in San Diego. She was transferred again to another facility three days later on May 16 before her admission to a nearby hospital on May 17. She passed away on May 25. On May 31, HRC called on ICE to conduct a thorough investigation into the circumstances of Hernandez’s death.
“The new information released regarding Roxana Hernández's death is both tragic and deeply disturbing,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs. “According to both eyewitness accounts and the forensic examiner, Hernández was denied medical treatment for several days, all while suffering severe symptoms that evidently contributed to her worsening condition. Moreover, we are horrified to learn that Hernández's body showed signs of physical abuse, including beating or kicking across her torso and being tightly handcuffed for an extensive length of time. Despite these shocking revelations, ICE officials have yet to comment on the specifics of the autopsy and refuse to provide further details regarding her death and detainment. HRC thanks organizations like the Transgender Law Center that are leading the efforts to bring justice in this case.”
A report released in 2016 by Human Rights Watch detailed the experiences of 28 transgender women who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border between 2011 and 2015, more than of whom were held in men’s facilities at some point in their detention. Others reported being held in solitary confinement, allegedly for their own protection, while many reported experiencing sexual assault and other forms of violence while in detention.
According to information provided by the Department in response to a request by Rep. Kathleen Rice, LGBTQ immigrants are detained twice as long as other immigrants and also face lengthy stays in solitary confinement despite ICE regulations that stipulate its use as a last resort. ICE also reported to Representative Rice that LGBTQ people accounted for only .14 percent of the people detained by ICE in 2017, but made up 12 percent of reported sexual assault and abuse cases.
The Human Rights Campaign stands with coalition partners in demanding the humane treatment of all undocumented immigrants and will not rest while LGBTQ migrants are subjected to horrific treatment based on their sexuality and gender identity.