Washington, DC – After the recent death of transwoman Johana Medina Leon and nearly a year after Roxsana Hernandez’s death, Congressman Joe Kennedy III today demanded answers from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement about the reported neglect that led to her death. In a letter to ICE Acting Director Mark A. Morgan, he raised concerns that the treatment of Johana has not been an isolated incident for transgender asylum seekers in ICE’s custody. As Chair of the Congressional Transgender Equality Task Force, Kennedy recently hosted a briefing on the challenges and threats that trans migrants and refugees face.

“LGBTQ asylum-seekers who arrive at our nation’s borders do so as their last refuge for survival because of the daily, often state-sanctioned, transphobic violence they face at home,” said Kennedy. “When they set their sights on this nation from afar, they see a beacon of equality and justice but instead have found an administration unwilling to provide lifesaving asylum and determined to match the cruelty they fled. ICE must answer for the preventable deaths of both Johana Medina Leon and Roxsana Hernandez.”

On May 18th, 2019, after voluntarily presenting herself in Texas, Johana passed her “credible fear” interview which determined she, in fact, would be persecuted if returned to El Salvador. However, Johana was not processed for parole until May 28th, the same day in which she was transferred to Del Sol Medical Center for chest pain. Within days, Johana died from complications from HIV. The private facility where Johana was held, ignored her numerous requests for treatment even as her health rapidly deteriorated according to her family. Her lawyers said her treatment in ICE custody was so deplorable, she pleaded to be deported, a request officials also denied. t (Press release from Congressman Joseph Kennedy III)

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