ICE Murdered Roxsana Hernandez

by Blue

The account of the murder by ICE of Roxsana Hernandez in May, 2018 has been told in major newspapers and magazines around the US including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times, even Teen Vogue and Elle.  It took a second autopsy to prove it was extreme physical abuse that actually led to her death not the pneumonia, dehydration and alleged heart attack that ICE claimed had killed her.  ICE has strongly denied claims of physical abuse and will not publicly release the autopsy results that are required by law when someone dies in custody.  Apparently ICE does not consider medical neglect to be abusive.

“Immigration prisons are teeming with human right violations,” said civil rights attorney Andrew Free who works with Transgender Law Center.  The prison where Roxsana was killed is run by CoreCivic.  90% of ICE detention centers are run by CoreCivic, the largest private prison company.  In 2017, they reported $1.77 billion in revenue, their largest source of income from contracts with ICE.  CoreCivic’s immigration detention centers have faced public scrutiny for human rights abuse, including medical neglect, sexual and physical assault against detainees, understaffing and overcrowding.  The company’s motto, “Better the Public Good” should be changed to “Better the Profits than the Public Good.”

In February 2017, detainees at an ICE facility managed by CoreCivic went on a hunger strike to protest their detention and CoreCivic retaliated by locking them in solitary confinement.  As of April 2018, CoreCivic faces three lawsuits for alleged forced labor and other abuses in its immigration detention facilities.  These cases, filed on behalf of several former detainees, allege that they were forced to work for a dollar a day by threatening to place them in solitary confinement.   Private run prisons are one of the symptoms of a pathological prison system that needs to end.

The Transgender Law Center and attorney Free filed a wrongful death suit against ICE on behalf of Roxsana.  “She journeyed thousands of miles fleeing persecution and torture at home only to be met with neglect and torture in this country’s for-profit human cages,” Free said.  This was Roxsana’s fourth attempt to seek asylum and this time she thought she had made it.  There was a sponsor, family members and a job waiting for her in Houston.  Roxsana decided to flee Honduras after she was gang raped by four members of the MS-13 gang.  Honduras has the highest murder rate of trans women than anywhere else in the world.

“Trans people in my neighborhood are killed and chopped into pieces, then dumped inside potato bags,” Roxsana told Buzzfeed News in April.  “…I wanted to stay in Honduras but I couldn’t… They kill trans people in Honduras.  I’m scared of that.”

Roxsana, known as “Roxy” to her friends, decided to travel more than 2,000 miles with 1,300 other migrants hoping to claim asylum in the United States, making a six-week journey across Mexico organized by Pueblo Sin Fronteras.  The caravan went to San Ysidro Port of Entry on the border near San Diego to ask for asylum where Roxsana was taken into custody on May 9.  After being held for five days, she was transferred to the Cibola facility that houses a dedicated “pod” for transgender women, which ICE says is run by medical and detention staff trained in “best practices for the care of transgender individuals.”  Less than three weeks later, she was dead.

Diversidad sin Fronteras has been reporting about Roxsana since she arrived at the border.  They put out a call for justice in May when ICE announced that she had died in custody.  From the beginning Diversidad sin Fronteras called her death murder.  The following letter was published in November when the second autopsy report confirmed their beliefs:


Our sister, our intimate sister, we miss you.

They told us you were beaten before they murdered you.  They told us the shackles around your wrists and the chains around your stomach left you with red marks and deep scars.  They told us your body was beaten with an object causing you to fall.  All of this happened while you were in custody, extremely sick and unable to defend yourself.  You spent the last days of your life resisting the physical and emotional trauma of a soulless country, which projects their deepest fears onto the bodies of trans refugees who are disposable not only to the state but also to most societies across the world.  The state did not welcome you but instead classified you as a criminal.  You are not a criminal; you are simply the victim of the most grotesque forms of punishment and torture to be seen in the modern world.

We will not rest until justice is served.

photo of Roxsana Hernandez
Roxsana Hernandez

We remember the day Anakai took this photo of you.  Many sources say the photo came from elsewhere but that is not true.  The people that actually know about this photo because it’s more than a photo, it’s also a moment in time that we keep closest to our hearts.  It was the last time we saw you smiling.  It was the last time you wore that pink lipstick and those star earrings.  It was May 7th, two days before you presented to US authorities, right in front of the wax museum in Tijuana.  You are hugging our sister Charlotte as we take photos to send to sponsors.  After numerous conversations with the amazing trans /queer organizers from the Houston area, they informed that they were able to find you a sponsor there.  As soon as we got the good news, we came to tell you!  You smiled so hard you started jumping in joy.  You always talked to us about your dreams.  You wanted to find your brother, help your sisters and mom back in Honduras, and you wanted to be in Houston.  That meant so much to you because you knew there were friends, you had a job there, and your life there was ripped apart when you were deported.

You presented on May 9th, 2018.  You were in the third LGBT group to present.

In the coolers, you got sick.  You got dizzy, you vomited, and nearly fainted.  Our sisters in the caravan informed CBP officers you were extremely sick.  They said you had a cold, laughing at you and telling you to wait for everyone else to get transferred.  You waited  5 and a half days until ICE decided to transfer all of the trans asylum seekers to Cibola.  Then you were shackled and placed in a cooler – a state bus -without food, water or access to the restroom.  The guards stopped at McDonalds and got themselves some food all while joking and mocking trans asylum seekers.  You traveled over 15 hours from San Diego to El Paso and still resisted.  You got to the emergency room there but then they took you out, you went to Cibola and then again to the hospital in New Mexico.  You were in the hospital for eight days.  What happened to you sister?  Why were you not able to recover at the hospital?  Why were you dehydrated if you had 8 days to recover?  Did they murder you, sister?

We miss you intimate.  We miss your laugh.  We miss the advice you always gave to the young woman who wanted to go out and walk down the street: “Stay at home, it’s not safe.  I am already older wuirras, I tell you from experience,” she would tell the young girls to take care of themselves, that the world is not safe for us trans people.  We miss the smell of your burnt hair when you straighten it as a line of girls wait for their turn to plug their phones or connect their own straighteners.  We cherish every moment with you, both positive and negative, both difficult and meaningless, we will never forget you.  In your honor, the trans migrant movement resists and we are not alone.  You were not alone, and your memory will forever be our guiding force.

Xoxo sister,

Diversity Without Borders



Author: lagai

LAGAI-Queer Insurrection is one of the oldest radical queer liberation groups in the U.S. We publish UltraViolet, a more or less bimonthly newspaper, which is mailed free of charge to over 1500 people, including over 800 prisoners. Our website is

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