Report: ICE Destroyed Footage Of Asylum-Seeker Dying In Its Custody

Screengrab/KPBS/YouTube

JakeThomas

Roxsana Hernández Rodriguez, a 33-year-old transgender woman seeking asylum in the U.S., died in ICE custody last year.

Ten days after Roxsana Hernández Rodriguez died in U.S. custody, federal immigration officials were instructed to retain footage of the asylum-seeker’s time in detention — but about three months later, they said the footage was “no longer available.”

According to an internal email reviewed by Buzzfeed News, an analyst with ICE's Office of Professional Responsibility asked for a numerous records related to the 33-year-old transgender woman’s death, including “footage of her time at the Cibola County Correctional Center (CCCC) in Milan, New Mexico, on May 16–17.”

The email read: "Please archive and retain all facility video surveillance footage," with the word “all” underlined, Buzzfeed said.

But 95 days after Hernández's death, toward the end of August 2018, ICE officials said in an email that the footage was “no longer available.” The email suggested that it no longer existed due to ICE’s policy of keeping surveillance video for only 90 days.

"It's completely ridiculous to suggest they didn't know they were supposed to preserve critical video footage — the most basic thing you do when there's some type of investigation, or you expect to be sued,” said Dale Melchert, an attorney with the Transgender Law Center, which represents Hernández's family.

Melchert told Buzzfeed that even though the email indicates the footage is gone, he is hopeful it still exists.

Without the surveillance footage, gaps and discrepancies in ICE documents related to Hernández's death remain. According to the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator, her cause of death was multicentric Castleman disease due to complications of AIDS.

The Transgender Law Center alleges that Hernandez’s death was “due to lack of adequate medical treatment and mistreatment while in immigration custody” and is preparing to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the federal government.

Read the full report.

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