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.

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ICE Illegally Arrested A Man On Church Grounds After Allegedly Lying To Him To Coax Him Out

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ICE Illegally Arrested A Man On Church Grounds After Allegedly Lying To Him To Coax Him Out

Smith Gado / Getty Images

Across the country, dozens of undocumented immigrants have sought refuge at churches, where they are typically safe from immigration enforcement.

However, as ICE escalates its attacks on the immigrant community, churches and other sensitive places of refuge may no longer be the ‘safe spaces’ they once were.

ICE has allegedly arrested a man who was inside of a church and they lied to get him out.

Last week, six ICE agents entered an undocumented migrant’s home (located on church property) and now that man is in a Georgia detention center. Binsar Siahaan, 52 (from Indonesia), was told that there was a problem with the GPS monitor he had to wear and that they needed to take him to an ICE office in Silver Springs, MD.

“As soon as he stepped outside, they handcuffed him,” taking him first to Baltimore and then to Georgia. He was not given anything to eat for two days, Rev. Scroggins said through tears. She said, “He is being abused. He is not well,” adding, “The way he is being treated is absolutely appalling.”

Siahaan currently is being held in the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga. and may be deported to his native Indonesia. He has been in the United States since 1989, coming here on a visa to work as a driver for the Indonesian Embassy. He overstayed the terms of the visa and then was denied asylum, because he did not apply on time.

But in Siahaan’s case, at the time they moved into the house on church grounds in January, they had no reason to fear ICE would come after them. They moved in to help take care of the church, which they have been attending for about six years.

Siahaan’s attorney and clergy at Glenmont United Methodist are rallying to stop Siahaan’s deportation, accusing ICE of breaching its own protocol by arresting him on church property under false pretenses and while his appeals are still pending.

The church where it happened is urging ICE to release the man – who is still in custody.

Leaders of the United Methodist Church – where the arrest occurred – have called for ICE to release Siahaan. They also called on ICE to state publically that it will uphold its policy of not entering sensitive locations, which includes “churches, synagogues, mosques or other institutions of worship, such as buildings rented for the purpose of religious services,” according to an ICE 2011 memorandum

“We are gravely concerned,” said Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, general secretary of the general board of the Church and Society of the United Methodist Church. “Church grounds are sacred.” She said the government was “in complicity to sin” if it won’t protect immigrants.

Rev. Kara Scroggins, pastor of the Glenmont church where Binsar has been a member for six years, called Siahaan “one of the most devoted, loyal and generous persons I know.” He helps out at the church constantly and usually is the first to arrive and the last to leave, she said.

This is hardly the first time ICE has conducted similar operations.

Credit: Smith Gado / Getty Images

An immigrant who sought refuge from deportation in a North Carolina church, staying there for 11 months, was arrested in 2018 after arriving at an appointment with immigration officials.

The arrest led to protests and the arrest of some supporters of Samuel Oliver-Bruno, the 47-year-old Mexican national who, according to an ICE news release, was detained at a Raleigh-area immigration office.

An advocacy group, Alerta Migratoria NC, said in a statement Oliver-Bruno went to have fingerprints taken so he could apply to stay in North Carolina with his wife and son. This is when ICE stopped in to make the arrest.

He had been living in CityWell United Methodist Church in Durham since late 2017, to avoid the reach of immigration officers, who generally avoid making arrests at churches and other sensitive locations.

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Court Says That ICE Needs To Follow The Constitution When Making Arrests And Here’s Why That’s Such A Big Deal

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Court Says That ICE Needs To Follow The Constitution When Making Arrests And Here’s Why That’s Such A Big Deal

Gerald Herbert / Getty Images

In what many are calling a landmark decision, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals just handed a major victory to migrant’s rights advocates. Although the major ruling seems simple on paper, it has major legal implications and could truly change the way that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrest undocumented immigrants.

However, the decision is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court – where it would face an uncertain legal future given the possible future makeup of the nation’s highest court.

The 9th Circuit Court just issued a landmark legal decision that could greatly affect ICE arrests.

Credit: Eric Risberg / Getty Images

Long-standing rules for arresting migrants may soon need to change, thanks to a recent ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The court says that ICE needs to align its arresting and detention procedures with those of all other law enforcement agencies in the country, which are guided by rules within the U.S. constitution. When police arrest people for suspected crimes, the constitution requires them to show probable cause to a judge within 48 hours. But ICE does not do that. When ICE arrests people, it typically holds them for weeks before any judge evaluates whether ICE had a valid legal basis to make the arrest.

But ICE’s policies may no longer be legal.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the usual constitutional rules that apply to normal police all over the country also apply to ICE. “The Fourth Amendment requires a prompt probable cause determination by a neutral and detached magistrate,” the court said. This really shouldn’t be a big deal. Prompt independent review by a judge of whether the government has a legal basis to take away a person’s freedom is an essential safeguard against tyranny.

ICE’s arrest and detention policies have long come under scrutiny for seemingly skirting constitutional rules.

Credit: Joseph Sohm / Getty Images

For almost 200 years, immigration enforcement has existed in a sort of grey area, where the usual rules never applied. For example, when ICE arrests people, individual officers have much more legal discretion than other law enforcement authorities. Detainees may be held for weeks or months before going to a judge who will ask the person how they plead to ICE’s allegations against them.

Only then, long after the initial arrest, might ICE actually be required to show a judge any evidence to back up its case. The person would have spent all of that time detained, likely at a private detention center in a remote area.

For any other person in the U.S., this procedure goes against every legal protection in the constitution. But ICE has gotten away with treating immigrants this way for generations.

The ruling comes as other courts are making it easier for ICE to abuse migrant’s constitutional rights.

The ruling by the 9th Circuit comes less than a week after the 1st Circuit overturned a ban prohibiting ICE from arresting undocumented immigrants at courthouses in Massachusetts.

In 2018, ICE created a policy of attempting to arrest undocumented immigrants when they appeared at state courthouses for judicial proceedings. However, a district court granted an injunction against the policy after migrant advocates filed a lawsuit against ICE. They claimed that ICE was in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and lacked authority to make civil arrests at courts.

Meanwhile, ICE has resumed large-scale enforcement operations, announcing roughly 2,000 arrests over several weeks amid the Coronavirus pandemic. The 9th Circuit’s decision raises an obvious question: How many of those people were detained for more than 48 hours without a review by a judge?

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