Amnesty calls for release of trans rights activist from US custody

Amnesty International is calling US authorities to release a transgender woman and LGBT right activist, who is being held in custody in New Mexico.

According to the non-governmental organisation (NGO), Alejandra is being “unreasonably held” in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the Cibola County Correctional Centre. It has launched a call to action. 

The NGO says Alejandra currently “struggles to receive the adequate medical care she needs while in detention.”

Denise Bell, researcher for refugee and migrant rights at Amnesty International USA, said: “Alejandra deserves the opportunity to live safely and freely while awaiting the decision on her case. People have the right to seek asylum from persecution. There is no reason why she should be locked up for seeking protection.

“Alejandra spent over ten years defending the rights of trans people in El Salvador. It is now time for us to come together and support her. We are calling on ICE to immediately release her on humanitarian parole while she awaits the decision on her asylum claim.”

Amnesty said Alejandra fled El Salvador in 2017 to escape physical abuse over her being transgender.

The NGO has said she was sexually assaulted by a gang and the Salvadoran military over her gender identity.

She left El Salvador to claim asylum in the USA, and is hoping to be reunited with her trans niece, who has won asylum in the country.

Amnesty said the Alejandra’s case is “especially urgent in light of the recent death of another transgender woman in ICE custody who was briefly held in the same unit.”

Roxana Hernández died in ICE custody last month. (familiatqlm/Twitter)

On 25 May, trans woman Roxana Hernández, 33, died in the custody of ICE at the Lovelace Medical Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

She had been seeking asylum at the San Ysidro port of entry on the US border earlier this month, when she was detained in ICE custody on 13 May.

Hernández, known simply as Roxy, had travelled to the American border as part of a ‘refugee caravan’ – a group of more than 1,300 people – organised by immigration support group Pueblo Sin Fronteras.

In a statement announcing Hernández’s death, ICE said that she had been admitted to hospital on 17 May with symptoms of pneumonia, dehydration and complications associated with HIV.

The US body said that medical staff identified the “preliminary cause of death” as cardiac arrest.

(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The statement also said that Hernández had entered the US illegally three times since 2005 – but was arrested and removed on her last attempt to stay in the country in 2014.

But a statement released by Pueblo Sin Fronteras, alongside other migrant groups Al Otro Lado and Diversidad Sin Fronteras, disputed ICE’s version of events and described the death as “institutional murder.”

“Roxy died due to medical negligence by US immigration authorities. In other words, she was murdered, much like Claudia Gómez González was murdered by a Border Patrol agent’s bullet less than a week ago,” it reads.

“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.”