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Protesters Demand Answers About Transgender Woman Who Died In ICE Custody

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Marisa Demarco / KUNM
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Protesters outside ICE's Albuquerque field office on Wednesday, June 6, 2018.

Dozens of transgender people seeking asylum were part of the caravan that crossed the border about a month ago. One woman was transferred to a detention facility in New Mexico, and she died days later. Demonstrators gathered at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement field office in Albuquerque Wednesday afternoon to march, chant and demand answers.

Immigrant rights groups say Roxsana Hernandez was denied medical care at the Cibola County Correctional Center, a privately run facility near Grants. That’s common for transgender people who are detained here, according Gabriela Hernandez, the executive director of the New Mexico Dream Team. "We often face a lot of isolation and misgendering," she said. "And so we see a lot of transgender women in the male detention centers. And so the sexual assaults are much much higher."

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Credit Marisa Demarco / KUNM
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Gabriela Hernandez of the New Mexico Dream Team holds a picture of Roxsana Hernandez outside the ICE field office in Albuquerque.

Part of the problem, she said, is that ICE is not transparent about what happens inside detention facilities, and that means there is no accountability or assurances that the agency follows its own rules. "We are out here to demand explanations. Because every single time, ICE has not explained how or why this keeps happening," she said. "The conditions are pretty bad. And being transgender, LGBTQ, undocumented, it’s even worse."

Roxsana Hernandez is the sixth person to die while in custody since October, according to ICE. An autopsy is pending. The agency released a statement saying medical care is provided to detainees soon after they arrive, and they do have access to emergency care.

Marisa Demarco began a career in radio at KUNM News in late 2013 and covered public health for much of her time at the station. During the pandemic, she is also the executive producer for Your NM Government and No More Normal, shows focused on the varied impacts of COVID-19 and community response, as well as racial and social justice. She joined Source New Mexico as editor-in-chief in 2021.
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