Things That Matter

This Trans Woman Died In ICE Custody And Now Her Family Is Suing Because Video Footage Has Gone Missing

Surveillance footage of Roxsana Hernandez, a trans woman who died in ICE custody, may have been deleted by the agency, her family’s lawyers say. However, the company that runs the facility claims the cameras automatically overwrote the video. The attorneys believe the footage could be key evidence in determining the events that led up to Hernandez’s death. 

The 33-year-old died May 25, 2018, in a New Mexico detention center from AIDS complications. Her death caused public outrage when advocates claimed she didn’t receive appropriate medical care while in custody. ICE officials say Hernandez wasn’t in custody long enough to be assessed and receive adequate treatment. 

Emails are released that reveal the footage of Hernandez’s death had been deleted.

The Transgender Law Center revealed an email exchange between officials that suggests the Cibola Country Correctional Center, a privately run ICE facility, did not preserve the surveillance footage. Hernandez only spent less than a day there before being moved to a hospital. 

Buzzfeed published the emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. An analyst in ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility requested a copy of the video footage in an email. 

“The requested video is no longer available,” said a supervisory detention and deportation officer in an Aug. 28, 2018, email. “The footage is held in memory up to around 90 days. They attempted to locate and was negative.”

Hernandez’s lawyers believe the footage was vital to her case. 

The family’s lawyers insist that ICE is required to keep evidence, electronic or not if it expects litigation. They believe the agency should have anticipated a lawsuit. The footage could reveal the severity of Hernandez’s health condition and could provide ample evidence that she was denied necessary care. 

“ICE and CoreCivic have consistently denied wrongdoing and stated that they in effect provided Roxsana with all the health care she needed,” Hernandez’s family’s attorney Andrew Free told BuzzFeed News. “The video would be essential and frankly irreplaceable evidence of whether that was true.”

CoreCivic is the private prison where Hernandez was held before she was hospitalized in Albuquerque. Lynly Egyes, legal director at the Transgender Law Center, also believes ICE should have held onto the footage.

“That autopsy alone made it clear there was interest in this case,” Egyes told BuzzFeed News. “When a detainee death review is conducted, it’s important to keep track of all the documents to understand why someone died, and for that reason alone, they should’ve been keeping all of this evidence.”

Hernandez’s death sparks public outrage. 

Hernandez was a native Honduran who arrived in the United States in a caravan of transgender migrants. She died two weeks after requesting asylum. Following her death, the Transgender Law Center filed a notice of wrongful death claim on her behalf to hold ICE and any other guilty parties accountable.

The LGBTQ community rallied in nationwide protests for Hernandez, some even took place outside of ICE offices and courthouses. 

Transgender Law Center releases Hernandez’s “death review.” 

In a document known as the “Detainee Death Review” for Hernandez, the law center says there are “various discrepancies in the medical treatment Roxsana received and immigration enforcement’s internal protocols.” BuzzFeed News reports that there was no indication Hernandez received antiretrovirals for HIV while she was in detention. 

“Roxsana needed medical care and yet she was cleared to be incarcerated. At numerous times throughout her days in immigration enforcement custody, the people she was detained with pleaded for her to receive medical care,” Egyes said in a statement, according to CNN

“It is clear from these records that if immigration enforcement believes that their sole duty is to shuffle people into immigration prisons, that is what they’ll do. As a result, the consequences for those who are either sick or who get sick while in their custody can be fatal.”

ICE maintains they didn’t have time to give Hernandez treatment.

Philip Farabaugh, deputy medical director for ICE Health Service Corps, says Hernandez needed lab tests before she could receive drugs or treatment. 

“Hernandez was in transit for most of her brief time with ICE. When she arrived at Cibola, such evaluation could not take place in such a short window of time prior to her transfer to the hospital,” Farabaugh said. “HIV medications are not without risks, and you don’t initiate them when other complex, life-threatening medical conditions are at hand.”

The detainee death review says that immigration officers are expected to flag any medical issues observed to health care professionals, but none were reported regarding Hernandez. Before arriving at the border, Hernandez told Buzzfeed she fled Honduras after contracting HIV due to sex worked forced by gangs. She came to the U.S. seeking tolerance and safety. 

“If DHS cannot be trusted to play by the rules, both before and after a detained migrant’s death based on these records, how can DHS be trusted to continue imprisoning migrants at all?” Free said.

Bad Bunny Honored A Murdered Trans Woman During Jimmy Fallon In Simple And Powerful Way

Entertainment

Bad Bunny Honored A Murdered Trans Woman During Jimmy Fallon In Simple And Powerful Way

A trans woman was shot and killed in Puerto Rico after she used the women’s bathroom at a McDonald’s. The attackers filmed her death as they laughed in her final moments. Adding insult to injury, many Puerto Rican news outlets covered her death as a man in a skirt. Bad Bunny, who has long championed for the LGBTQ+ community, used his time on “The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon” to address the misgendering of Alexa Negrón Luciano after her humiliating and brutal death.

Bad Bunny took time during his performance on Jimmy Fallon to bring attention to a trans woman who was killed in Puerto Rico.

Credit: @DavidBegnaud / Twitter

Alexa Negrón Luciano was a homeless trans woman known in Puerto Rico. She was often ridiculed by people on the streets and on social media where photos were posted making fun of her as an oddball. That mockery and callousness of those around her reached a deadly conclusion last week.

According to reports, a woman customer at a McDonald’s in Tao Baja, Puerto Rico claimed Negrón Luciano tried peeping on her as she used the bathroom. She was then questioned by police as people took photos and posted them on social media. Twelve hours later, a video circulated on social media of Negrón Luciano’s assassination as the assailants are heard laughing on the video.

Media reports from Puerto Rico initially broke the story calling Negrón Luciano “a man in a skirt.”

Credit: @TropiSenpai / Twitter

Puerto Rico has long been criticized for the treatment of the LGBTQ+ community. Last year, Puerto Ricans and celebrities took to the streets to protest against a “religious freedom” bill that would allow the discrimination of the LGBTQ+ community. The bill, initially supported by then-Governor Ricardo Rosselló, ultimately didn’t pass after strong pushback in Puerto Rico and from around the world.

Not long after the bill was blocked, Governor Rosselló was caught up in a group chat scandal where he and those who worked with him spoke about the LGBTQ+ community and women in disparaging terms. The group chat scandal fueled more protests and eventually led to Gov. Rosselló resigning from his position after growing outcry.

Despite presenting an LGBTQ+-friendly face to the world, Puerto Rico’s anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment is still a very real fear for those on the island.

Credit: @AlyssaCortesNV / Twitter

The New York Times has reported that women’s and LGBTQ+ rights have advanced significantly in recent decades. However, an underlying fear of physical and legislative violence has scarred the communities. While some measures to protect LGBTQ+ people have progressed, like an employment non-discrimination law, there is a strong coalition of conservative and Christian evangelicals fighting the progress.

“This has served as a reminder that some of these advances are at risk, that there is still discrimination, that there is still homophobia,” Pedro Julio Serrano, an activist in San Juan, told The New York Times after the shooting death of gay Latin trap singer Kevin Fret. “We can’t forget that.”

This is why Bad Bunny openly correcting the media’s and people’s perception of Negrón Lucian is so important.

Credit: @MommyDearest64 / Twitter

Last year, at least 26 transgender and gender non-conforming people were murdered in the U.S. for being who they are. Mainly, deadly violence is focused on trans women of color with Black trans women dying at higher rates. The real statistics of these murders are hard to track because often the victims are misgendered by the media or family who never accepted them for who they are. So far, in 2020, there are believed to be at least two trans women murdered in the U.S.

Some responses to the performance show the work still needed to break the ignorance and hate around a vulnerable community.

Credit: @anamdelosreyes / Twitter

Trans people, like all people, deserve the same respect when it comes to pronouns and the right to live without fear and violence. Bad Bunny’s shirt addressing Negrón Luciano by name and not “a man in a skirt” is a significant moment in demanding that respect.

You can watch Bad Bunny’s full performance below.

Thank you for standing with the LGBTQ+ community, Bad Bunny.

READ: Bad Bunny Is The Modern Icon The Queer Latino Community Needs And Deserves Right Now. Here’s Why

Mexico Is The World’s Second Deadliest Country For Trans Women And These Activists Have Had Enough

Things That Matter

Mexico Is The World’s Second Deadliest Country For Trans Women And These Activists Have Had Enough

Homosensual / Instagram

Trans rights in Latin America are an uphill and often heroic battle. Conservative social norms and Catholicism, both of which are generally dogmatic when it comes to any sexual or gender diversity, has shaped Mexican society into a mostly CIS-gendered, patriarchy-led society. However, there are promising signs that long-lasting change could be near and that Mexican culture could shift the tide towards a legal and everyday framework in which rights are respected. 

Trans women in particular are vulnerable to discrimination, verbal abuse and physical violence. 

Mexico is almost as dangerous as Brazil for trans women.

Credit: Homosensual

As the Associated Press reports: “Mexico has become the world’s second deadliest country after Brazil for transgender people, with 261 transgender women slain in 2013-2018, according to a recent study by the LGBTQ rights group Letra S.”

This is just appaling, as is the fact that most crimes go unpunished and that corruption in the Kaflaesque Mexican bureaucracy often leads to even more instances of abuse and trauma for the victims. The Associated Press reported late last year: “Like most crime in Mexico, nearly all such slayings go unsolved and unpunished — less than 3% of the killings of LGBTQ members have resulted in convictions since 2013. So transgender community leaders and activists are largely on their own in pursuing long-denied justice.” And remember there is no peace without justice. 

Trans activists in Mexico City shut down the city’s busiest road to protest the killing of a community member.

El Periférico is one of the busiest roads in the world. Around 20 trans activists blocked it while carrying a coffin. They were protesting the killing of Paola Buenrostro in 2016. The authorities, activists claim, have done close to nothing to solve the case. They blocked El Periférico after delivering documents to the National Human Rights Commission. As CE Noticias Financieras notes, the letter states that: “It accuses the Attorney General’s Office of Mexico City (now the Prosecutor’s Office) of not recognizing the gender identity of the victim and Kenya Citlali Cuevas Fuentes, an indirect victim of the crime, as well as of discriminating them against them for being trans women and sex workers. They also noted that they failed to investigate with a gender perspective, negligence in the imputation within the initial hearing, raising evidence and chain of custody, among other misconduct.”

Paola’s friend, the aforementioned Kenya Cuevas, is leading the protest. She was there when Kenya was shot and she was close to experiencing the same fatal fate. Even though Kenya was actually there the authorities did not validate her first-hand testimony. The case turned cold and no one has been blamed for the transfeminicide.

Kenya Cuevas herself got into the coffin to stand for murdered trans and CIS women.

Sometimes the best way to fight for a cause is to be daring and doing things that can have a strong visual and symbolic impact. That is what trans rights activist Kenya Cuevas did by laying inside a coffin in broad daylight. It was a brutal image to remember. Paola’s legacy also lives on through a house for trans women in need set up under her name: this house helps trans women escape drugs and sex work that they might not want to engage in for any other reason other than survival. Kenya’s message while blocking El Peri (as the freeway is commonly known) was clear: “We are tired of being unseen, tired of being violent, tired of not being given us opportunities to succeed, we also support our families. We too are awaited by our relatives and no one cares”. We hear you, reinas hermosas! 

The protest was successful and the women were granted a meeting with the Attorney’s office in Mexico City.

Credit: Homosensual

The protest only lasted ten minutes, but in a road as busy as El Periférico that feels like an eternity. Things got tense between drivers and activists. The police arrived and escorted the trans women to meet with Mexico City’s Attorney General Ernestina Godoy. If we measure activism by the success of their actions in terms of real political change, which can amount to having your voice heard, then we can argue that these trans women made a breakthrough that would probably not have been made without altering the public order.

And that’s what some people, mainly dudes but also some CIS women, do not understand: that trans women and feminists have to resort to methods that might be deemed as extreme, such as painting public monuments and stopping traffic. In the case of Paola’s murder, almost four years went by without the authorities being able or willing to have any developments on the case. Without becoming a real threat and momentarily disrupting traffic flow in Mexico City’s main artery, perhaps they would have never been heard.