A transgender woman who was a part of a migrant caravan that arrived at the southern border of the U.S. earlier this month has died in custody.
Roxana Hernandez traveled with the group of migrants from Mexico beginning in late March and was later transferred to an immigration detention center in New Mexico.
Her health reportedly deteriorated quickly after being held for days in “the dreaded ‘icebox’ – holding cells with extremely low temperatures” for five days, according to a joint statement from three caravan groups.
Hernandez, a Honduras national, died in the Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Albuquerque on May 25.
Her death was confirmed in a statement from three groups that organized the caravan, as well as from ICE, though the government agency referred to her using what was likely her legal name, Jeffry Hernandez.
Hernandez arrived at the San Ysidro port of entry on May 9 and was held in the so-called “icebox” for five days, “suffering cold, lack of adequate food or medical care, with the lights on 24 hours a day,” according to a joint statement from three caravan groups.
“During her first week in the United States, Roxy’s body and spirit quickly deteriorated,” the statement said.
The so-called “iceboxes” have been a point of contention for years, and the non-profit advocacy group The American Immigration Council released a report in 2015 noting that while the facilities are not designed to hold people overnight they are regularly used to do so.
The group said the facilities, commonly called “hieleras” which is the Spanish word for freezer, are “wholly inadequate forany overnight detention” and have no beds, “are extremely cold, frequently overcrowded, and routinely lacking in adequate food, water, and medical care.”
ICE said in its statement that she was admitted to a hospital on May 17 with symptoms of pneumonia, dehydration and complications associated with HIV before being airlifted to Lovelace Medical Center. She remained in intensive care until her death on May 25, ICE said. ICE reported that the preliminary cause of death was identified as cardiac arrest but an autopsy is pending.
The caravan organizers said her death was due to a lack of care from U.S. officials.
“Roxy died due to medical negligence by U.S. immigration authorities,” the groups’ statement said. “Roxy died in the country she had sought to start a new life in, she died for being a transgender woman, a migrant who was treated neither with respect nor with dignity.”
ICE notes in its statement that Hernandez illegally entered the U.S. three times, and had theft, immoral conduct and prostitution convictions from incidents in Dallas in 2006 and 2009.