This Transgender Asylum-Seeker Died After Senseless Abuse in ICE Custody

Honduran immigrant Roxsana Hernandez Rodriguez was just 33 when she was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement while seeking asylum. After just over two weeks in custody, this transgender women was dead.

ICE claims it was an accident, but an independent autopsy says otherwise.

Now, the Transgender Law Center — in partnership with the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project and Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement — is suing, saying this is a case of wrongful death. They want damages, but they also want the truth about what happened inside immigration detention.

Roxsana fled her native Honduras because it was too dangerous to be a transgender woman there. But when she arrived in the United States, all she found was death — not a second chance at life in a more welcoming country.

Join Care2 activists calling for justice in this senseless death.

Rodriguez was part of a caravan of immigrants who approached the border in the spring of 2018, though it wasn’t her first attempt at building a safer life in the U.S.

She died on May 25 in New Mexico, approximately a week after being transferred to a hospital when her condition rapidly declined. ICE said she was being treated for HIV-related complications, along with pneumonia and dehydration, but the agency has declined to release the results of its own autopsy — all while denying the claims made by the Transgender Law Center.

The independent autopsy found evidence that Rodriguez was shackled for extended periods of time, beaten and possibly kicked, while powerless to defend herself. She was also denied access to water, leading to the dehydration that contributed significantly to her death. Witnesses say Rodriguez experienced days of vomiting and diarrhea while pleading for medical attention before ICE personnel grudgingly transferred her to a hospital.

While ICE has stressed her HIV status, she wasn’t alone; HIV infection rates are extremely high among trans women in Central and South America — and accessing treatment can be challenging. As the entity responsible for her incarceration, ICE was also responsible for her wellbeing, which should have included management of her HIV and related medical issues — not incarceration in a freezing cold cell in a facility that was indifferent to her health care needs.

Of note is that Rodriguez was incarcerated at a facility operated by CoreCivic, a for-profit detention company that makes nearly two billion dollars a year. Many immigrant detainees end up in such facilities, which offer little oversight and are under high pressure to increase profit margins. They’re operated for shareholders, not safety.

Marbeli Bustillo, an asylum-seeker who spent time with Rodriguez while both were in the immigration detention system, made it to safety in Boston and spoke to the New York Times about her. Bustillo commented that her family was accepting and loving, and that Roxsana had dreams of getting a job and settling down in the U.S. She was also, Bustillo said, very protective of her makeup bag; one of the most poignant findings of her autopsy may be the sparkly nail polish that bedecked her toes.

Take Action!

Transgender asylum-seekers risk everything to leave extremely dangerous environments at home, but when they reach the border, ICE houses them in substandard conditions, fails to provide necessary medical care and exposes them to risk of physical and sexual assault. It’s time for ICE to take responsibility for the death of Roxsana, and to take steps to ensure this never happens again. Sign this Care2 petition to demand justice for Roxsana.

Creating a Care2 petition is easy. If you have an issue you care deeply about, why not start your own petition? Here are some guidelines to help you get started and soon the Care2 community will be signing up to support you.


Photo credit: Elvert Barnes/Creative Commons


Karen H
Karen Habout a month ago

Recently I saw first-hand how closed-minded people can be about transgenders. I was with a group of people I thought were open-minded and kind-hearted, but when someone just mentioned the term "transgender", the vitriol was almost too much to bear. I was stunned that people I considered friends could be so bigoted. And as Pam W mentioned, most of these people go to church and consider themselves "Christian". How can they spew such hatred when the religion they profess to follow commands them to "love one another"?

Lesa D
Lesa Dabout a month ago

thank you s.e. ...

Lesa D
Lesa Dabout a month ago

#44694 petition signed...

silja s
silja sabout a month ago

what. why. this should not be!!

Joan E
Joan E1 months ago

This is evil.

pam w
pam w1 months ago

Why are so many bigots so prejudiced and AFRAID of transgender people? And I'll bet they go to church and feel sooooo sanctified afterward.

Janis K
Janis K1 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

Amparo Fabiana C

The hate and homophobia is not acceptable. Human Rights.

Barbara S
Barbara S2 months ago


Janis K
Janis K2 months ago

There should be justice for this woman, but will there be?