Thirty-three-year-old Roxsana Hernandez Rodriguez, a transgender woman from Honduras, traveled over 2,000 miles along with 1,300 others to seek asylum in the United States after suffering extreme violence in her home country because of her sexuality. But less than three months after arriving in the country that is famous for offering the “American Dream,” she was dead.
As reported by the Daily Beast, Hernandez Rodriguez died on May 25, just nine days after being transferred to a dedicated unit for transgender women at the Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico, which is under the operation of CoreCivic.
Now her autopsy has revealed that aside from suffering from illness, she likely also suffered violence in the days before her death. A day after being hospitalized at the local hospital, she was transferred to Lovelace Medical Center in Albuquerque, where she died in the intensive care unit.
“She developed severe diarrhea and vomiting over the course of several days, and finally was emergently hospitalized, then transported to Lovelace Medical Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she remained critically ill until her death,” forensic pathologist Kris Sperry wrote on her autopsy report. “According to observations of other detainees who were with Ms. Hernandez Rodriguez, the diarrhea and vomiting episodes persisted over multiple days with no medical evaluation or treatment, until she was gravely ill.”
The conclusion of the autopsy was that Hernandez Rodriguez had likely died from “severe complications of dehydration superimposed upon HIV infection” but also found other sinister signs on her body.
A transgender woman who died in ICE custody was likely physically abused there, according an autopsy report, and died after several days of severe, untreated dehydration.
— Scott Bixby (@scottbix) November 26, 2018
According to Sperry, there were evident signs of recent physical abuse on Hernandez Rodriguez. Sperry discovered “deep bruising” on her hands and abdomen, evidence of major blunt force trauma “indicative of blows, and/or kicks, and possible strikes with [a] blunt object.” Another diagram accompanying the autopsy shows “long, thin bruises” along her back and sides, and “extensive hemorrhaging” on both wrists, indicating the likely use of handcuffs.
Andrew Free, an attorney representing her family, has blamed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for the apparent signs of abuse.
Danielle Bennett, an ICE spokesperson, has strongly denied the autopsy’s findings.
“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) cannot speak to the validity of the private autopsy; however, allegations that she was abused in ICE custody are false.
“A review of Hernandez’s death conducted by ICE Health Service Corps medical professionals confirmed that she suffered from a history of untreated HIV. At no time did the medical personnel treating Ms. Hernandez at Cibola General Hospital or Lovelace Medical Center raise any issues of suspected physical abuse.”
Bennett added that ICE “takes very seriously the health, safety and welfare” of asylum seekers who they detain in detention centers.
Hernandez Rodriguez had contracted HIV after being gang-raped by four members of the MS-13 gang because of her sexuality. She was fleeing the country because transgender people in Honduras are still facing violence and persecution, with many ending up sexually abused and dead.