A transgender woman held at a privately operated Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center was likely beaten before her death, according to private autopsy results obtained by The Daily Beast.
Both the private prison company that owns the facility and the detention center itself have faced allegations of misconduct and neglect in the past.
Thirty-three-year-old Roxsana Hernández Rodriguez immigrated to the United States this spring with a caravan of migrants from Central America, many of whom had fled violence and poverty in their home countries. Her main motivation for leaving her native Honduras was the persecution she faced for being transgender and the lack of access to HIV medication.
Hernández Rodriguez first contracted the disease after she was gang raped by four men in Honduras.
“Trans people in my neighborhood are killed and chopped into pieces, then dumped inside potato bags,” she told Buzzfeed News earlier this year, explaining her decision to join the caravan headed for the United States.
Hernández Rodriguez was detained by immigration authorities at the border in early May and died on the 25th of that month, just nine days after being transferred to dedicated unit for transgender women at the Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico.
As ThinkProgress previously reported, Hernández Rodriguez was the sixth person to die in ICE custody since October 2017.
Early reports suggested Hernández Rodriguez died due to complications from pneumonia that were exacerbated by the freezing cold conditions of the detention center. She also reportedly lacked adequate food and medical care and was held in a cell where the lights were turned on 24 hours a day.
ICE initially claimed her death was the result of cardiac arrest and HIV complications.
Subsequent autopsy results concluded, however, that the cause of Hernández Rodriguez’s death was most likely “severe complications of dehydration superimposed upon HIV infection.”
A second autopsy found that, in addition to the severe dehydration, the 33-year-old had been subjected to severe physical abuse. Blunt-force trauma “indicative of blows, and/or kicks, and possible strikes with blunt object” was found on her hands and abdomen, as well as hemorrhaging consistent with handcuff injuries, the report revealed.
The report concluded Hernández Rodriguez had “diarrhea and vomiting episodes [that] persisted over multiple days with no medical evaluation or treatment, until she was gravely ill.”
The Cibola County Correctional Center where Hernández Rodriguez was being held at the time of her death is operated by CoreCivic, one of the largest private prison corporations in the country. In the past, it has faced allegations of medical neglect, “including operating for months on end without a medical doctor and failing to provide basic care and screening for infectious diseases,” and come under scrutiny for a series of questionable deaths, The Nation reported in 2016.
The U.S. Bureau of Prisons ended a previous arrangement with the facility in the summer of 2016, four years before the contract was set to expire.
In addition to the Cibola County Correctional Center, CoreCivic contracts a number of facilities with ICE and runs large detention facilities like the Dilley South Texas Family Residential Center, where a migrant toddler died earlier this year.
A number of pregnant women detained at CoreCivic facilities have complained of improper medical treatment and alleged malnutrition during their detention.
One CoreCivic detainee at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia allegedly failed to receive proper medical treatment and was placed in solitary confinement despite being previously diagnosed with schizophrenia. He subsequently killed himself shortly after his release from solitary.
A Cuban national also died from pneumonia complications at that same facility in early January.
On Sunday, both CoreCivic and Geo Group, another private prison company that contracts with ICE, were served class action lawsuits by detainees in New Mexico who allege the companies are violating minimum wage laws. Detained immigrants granted political asylum are forced to cook and clean for less than $1 a day, drawing comparisons to slave labor, the suit claimed.