Senators Kamala Harris and Richard Blumenthal are demanding an investigation into the death of Roxsana Hernández, an asylum seeker who died in ICE custody due to a lack of medical care.
Hernández arrived in the United States in early May of 2018, and was immediately detained. She received a medical examination within two days, with a report noting that she had lost 40 pounds, had recurring vomiting, and, though she was living with HIV she was not taking any medication. She was diagnosed with bronchitis and flagged as “not medically cleared for transport.” Later in that same day that ruling was inexplicably reversed.
For the next two weeks, Hernández was repeatedly transferred from one facility to another. According to ICE, the multiple frequent transfers made it impossible to evaluate her health needs during that time.
On May 25, she passed away while still in custody. An autopsy requested by her family found that the cause of death was likely dehydration combined with complications from HIV, and that she may have been beaten before she died.
Now, Harris and Blumenthal want an explanation, and have sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr requesting more information. "There remain significant factual disputes relating to the circumstances surrounding Ms. Hernández’s death," reads the letter as reported by Buzzfeed. "Ms. Hernández’s surviving family, the United States Congress, and the American people deserve answers."
An investigation into Hernández’s death has been stymied by the deletion of evidence by ICE contractor CoreCivic, one of the country’s largest private prison companies. Though they are required to retain video footage relating to potential lawsuits, footage of Hernández in the facilities was wiped within 90 days. Elizabeth Warren and others called that news “appalling.”
“ICE needs to be held accountable for Roxsana Hernández’s death, and for destroying evidence related to her death,” Warren tweeted.
The deleted footage isn’t the only point of contention. According to the Transgender Law Center, there are multiple discrepencies between the treatment ICE was required to provide and the treatment Hernández actually received.
The ICE operations handbook requires that detainees who need medication be provided with a seven-day supply if transported by plane. Once Hernández was transferred she should have been given a 30-day supply of the drugs. But there’s no record of Hernández receiving any medication at all for HIV, for bronchitis, or for her ongoing fever.
For reasons that are unclear, an internal ICE report found that there were no deficiencies in the treatment that Hernández received. That report conflicts with facts gathered by the Transgender Law Center in preparation for a wrongful death lawsuit.
“If ICE destroyed video evidence to cover up what happened to Roxsana Hernández, a transgender woman who died in their custody, then we need to know about it,” Harris wrote on Twitter. “That’s why @SenBlumenthal & I are calling for a special counsel to investigate Roxsana’s death. We deserve the truth.”