El Paso, Texas — The Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee (DMSC) and Detention Watch Network are demanding an immediate investigation and public release of the findings related to the death of a transgender asylum seeking woman, Johana Medina Leon. Leon, 25, died on June 1 while in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody after being detained at the Otero County Processing Center in El Paso, Texas.
“ICE completely disregards the well-being and dignity of people in their custody,” said Jennifer Apodaca, member of DMSC. “Immigration detention is not the answer: not for asylum seekers, or for anyone else. The death toll amassed by ICE coupled with its inflammatory statements about the tragic passings, this time by Corey A. Price, field office director for ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations in El Paso, exposes ICE as the dehumanizing and criminalizing agency that it is.”
Leon’s passing follows the one-year anniversary of the death of Roxsana Hernandez Rodriguez, 33, a transgender woman who died in ICE custody where an independent autoposy indicated she experienced physical abuse before her death. Since 2003, 192 people have died in ICE immigrant detention. Recent investigations into deaths in immigration detention, Code Red: The Fatal Consequences of Dangerously Substandard Medical Care in Immigration Detention, Fatal Neglect: How ICE Ignores Deaths in Detention and Systemic Indifference: Dangerous and Substandard Medical Care in US Immigration Detention, have found that inadequate medical care has contributed to numerous deaths.
“Immigration detention is fatal,” continued Apodaca. "ICE repeatedly puts lives in jeopardy with inadequate medical care, including delayed attention.”
Leon’s tragic death follows a recent request for $4.5 billion in supplemental funding by the Trump administration, part of which would be used to grow the deadly detention system. The expedited funding request, to increase resources yet again for this fiscal year, will expand the already massive immigration enforcement apparatus that tears apart families, further militarizes our southern border, and violates human rights with impunity.
“Congress must say no to Trump’s agenda which seeks to maximize harm to those arriving at the border by building and expanding deadly immigration detention jails,” said Barbara Suarez Galeano, National Organizer with Detention Watch Network. “More money to increase the number of people caged is not the solution. Unfettered growth of immigrant detention only serves to exacerbate ICE’s long history of human rights abuses. As the death toll continues to rise, the detention systems needs to be defunded, not bankrolled.”
Detention Watch Network (DWN) is a national coalition of organizations and individuals working to expose and challenge the injustices of the United States’ immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for profound change that promotes the rights and dignity of all persons. Founded in 1997 by immigrant rights groups, DWN brings together advocates to unify strategy and build partnerships on a local and national level to end immigration detention. Visit www.detentionwatchnetwork.org. Follow @DetentionWatch.