(CNN)Lawyers for the family of a transgender immigrant say she was physically abused while in US custody and died from insufficient medical care.
Transgender immigrant who died in ICE custody was beaten and deprived of medical attention, family says
Roxsana Hernandez Rodriguez was an HIV-positive transgender woman who fled Honduras to seek asylum in the United States, according to lawyers representing her family.
She entered ICE custody on May 13 at the San Ysidro Port of Entry near San Diego, California, according to ICE. She was transferred to a privately run ICE detention facility, Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico on May 16 and housed in a unit for transgender detainees.
Nine days later, she died at Lovelace Medical Center in Albuquerque. The preliminary cause of death was identified as cardiac arrest, ICE said in a statement at the time.
But a private autopsy paid for by the Transgender Law Center, which is representing Hernandez's family, suggests she most likely died from "severe complications of dehydration" on top of HIV infection. The report also found bruising on her body that suggests she was shackled tightly at the wrists and beaten on her back and abdomen, lawyers for her family said.
"Her death was entirely preventable," said Lynly Egyes, director of litigation for the Transgender Law Center, in a statement Monday. TLC sent a written notice of a personal injury and wrongful death claim to the state of New Mexico on November 19, the first step in filing a lawsuit.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement that it could not speak to the validity of the private autopsy, which was first reported Monday by the Daily Beast.
"However, allegations that she was abused in ICE custody are false," the statement said. "A review of Hernandez's death conducted by ICE Health Service Corps medical professionals confirmed that she suffered from a history of untreated HIV. At no time did the medical personnel treating Ms. Hernandez at Cibola General Hospital or Lovelace Medical Center raise any issues of suspected physical abuse."
A spokeswoman for CoreCivic, which manages the Cibola facility, said that Hernandez was detained at Cibola for only 12 hours before she was transported to an outside hospital on May 17.
"We take the health and well-being of those entrusted to our care very seriously. Whenever there is a death in custody, CoreCivic immediately notifies our government partners and all appropriate authorities with oversight responsibility. We cooperate fully with those investigations," Amanda Gilchrist, director of public affairs, said in a statement.
Hernandez was one of roughly 25 transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals who joined the annual caravan of Central American migrants heading to the US border organized by Pueblo Sin Fronteras.
Hernandez left her native country of Honduras to flee the "violence, hate, stigma, and vulnerability" she suffered as a transgender woman, Pueblo Sin Fronteras said in a statement in May.
It was a trip she had made at least three times before. She entered the country illegally twice between 2005 and 2009, and was granted voluntary return to Mexico after claiming she was Mexican, ICE sai