Transgender asylum seeker dies after release from immigration facility in NM | KOB 4
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Transgender asylum seeker dies after release from immigration facility in NM

The Associated Press & KOB
June 03, 2019 10:11 PM

EL PASO, Texas (AP) â" A transgender asylum seeker has died just days after being released from a U.S. immigration detention center where advocates say detainees are mistreated.

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They say the death is another example of poor care and treatment that transgender detainees get in custody. The death of Johana Medina Leon, 25, follows that of Roxsanna Hernandez, a 33-year-old Honduran transgender woman, whose 2018 in-custody death sparked protests and calls for an investigation. Hernandez died of a rare disorder that developed quickly because of AIDS, according to an autopsy report released in April.

The Santa Fe Dreamers Project, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center and ACLU of New Mexico have written to several government officials asking them to address the issue.

"Johana's tragic death underscores the senselessness and cruelty of the current administration's detention policies for migrants and asylum seekers," Kristin Greer Love, a staff attorney at ACLU of New Mexico, said in a statement.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa said in a statement that Medina Leon was from El Salvador and died Saturday at an El Paso hospital.

The cause of death isn't known.

Medina Leon asked for asylum at a border crossing on April 11 and was detained in a private detention facility in Chaparral, New Mexico, where advocacy groups say transgender and gay detainees receive poor medical care and are subjected to abuse.

On May 18, an asylum officer determined she had a credible fear of returning to her country, which is one of the first steps in the often years-long process. Transgender people in El Salvador regularly experience discrimination by police and military in their home country, according to a 2017 study by the Georgetown Law Human Rights Institute.

Ten days later, Medina Leon complained of chest pain and was sent to an El Paso hospital. ICE released her from custody that day.

"This is yet another unfortunate example of an alien who enters the United States with an untreated, unscreened medical condition," said Corey A. Price, field office director for ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations, said in a statement. Price is based in El Paso.

ICE has faced scrutiny for its detainee health care for years. The agency has reported five in-custody deaths since October.

But ICE says it is committed to providing medical care to everyone in its custody. It says it spends $250 million each year on health care for detainees, including medical, dental and mental health intake screenings within 12 hours of arrival and round-the-clock emergency care.

Statement from Department of Homeland Security

ICE’s Health Service Corps (IHSC) ensures the provision of necessary medical care services as required by ICE Performance-Based National Detention Standards and based on the medical needs of the detainee. Comprehensive medical care is provided from the moment detainees arrive and throughout the entirety of their stay. All ICE detainees receive medical, dental and mental health intake screening within 12 hours of arriving at each detention facility, a full health assessment within 14 days of entering ICE custody or arrival at a facility, and access to daily sick call and 24-hour emergency care. Pursuant to our commitment to the welfare of those in the agency’s custody, ICE annually spends more than $250 million on the spectrum of healthcare services provided to detainees.

Joint Statement from Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich

Our staff has toured the Otero County Processing Center and raised concerns about the treatment and conditions for transgender and other LGBT individuals in detention at the facility. At no point during the visit did the OCPC or ICE officials inform our staffs that a transgender individual who had been in U.S. custody had fallen ill, and was admitted to the hospital for treatment for serious medical issues. We believe that ICE should be fully transparent and publicly disclose all relevant information regarding this tragic and disturbing situation, and we continue to push for humane treatment for asylum seekers and for real solutions to this humanitarian crisis.

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The Associated Press & KOB

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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