In May, a transgender woman named Roxana Hernández, 33, died in Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s custody, after she traveled to the United States to seek asylum. Upon her initial arrival in the U.S. she was not considered for asylum, despite the high rates of violence against transgender people in Honduras; instead, she was scheduled to be deported. It was during this process that she became seriously ill and died.

The circumstances of her death remain shrouded in mystery. ICE reportedthat Hernández died of a heart attack after suffering “with symptoms of pneumonia, dehydration, and complications associated with HIV” in New Mexico on May 25. However, an investigation from the Transgender Law Center contradicted that report — and claimed that before her death, Hernández was subjected to abuse, including beatings.

And now, Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) are seeking answers. On Monday, they sent a letter to Ronald D. Vitiello, the acting director of ICE, and Kevin K. McAleenan, the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, demanding that they release a detailed report about Hernández’s death. Much is still unclear; here is what we know so far.

An independent autopsy report from the Transgender Law Center contradicts ICE’s report.

In the letter from the Senators, they outlined that an independent investigation and autopsy from the Transgender Law Center showed that Hernádez’s death was “preventable.” Their report suggested that severe complications of dehydration on top of an HIV infection cause Hernández’s death. The report also showed that before she died, she was beaten by “a baton or similar object while she was restrained by handcuffs.”

“Reports suggest that while she was held at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, Ms. Hernández endured freezing temperatures and was denied adequate food, water, and medical care,” stated the letter from the Senators. “During her transport between facilities by ICE, she vomited to the extent other detainees begged authorities to provide her with water and proper medical care.”

Advocates from multiple organizations claim that her health issues were caused by treatment that could be considered torture. After Hernández entered the U.S. on May 9 as part of a migrant caravan in San Ysidro, California, she was detained and held for two weeks before her deportation proceedings began.

She was processed and held for five days in the dreaded ‘icebox’ — holding cells with extremely low temperatures — in U.S. Customs and Border Protection suffering cold, lack of adequate food or medical care, with the lights on 24 hours a day, under lock and key,” read the joint statement from the organizations Diversidad Sin Fronteras, Al Otro Lado, and Pueblo Sin Fronteras. “During her first week in the United States Roxy’s body and spirit quickly deteriorated.”

ICE hasn’t commented on the reports of abuse, but listed Hernández’s cause of death as “cardiac arrest.”

In a statement released by the agency on May 25, ICE gave its account of Hernández’s death — which was the sixth reported death of a detainee in ICE’s custody in the fiscal year. “On May 17, Hernandez was admitted to Cibola General Hospital with symptoms of pneumonia, dehydration and complications associated with HIV,” read the statement. “Later in the day she was transferred via air ambulance to LMC, where she remained in the intensive care unit until her passing.”

ICE has a terrible track record with trans detainees, according to reports from advocates.

“Paired with the abuse we know transgender people regularly suffer in ICE detention, the death of Ms. Hernández sends the message that transgender people are disposable and do not deserve dignity, safety, or even life,” said Isa Noyola, deputy director at Transgender Law Center.

The organization’s Trans Immigrant Defense Effort works to provide emergency legal services for transgender people who are detained by immigration authorities because “ICE has shown time and again it is incapable of protecting transgender women in detention.”

Now, Senators are asking for a full report.

The three Senators who sent the letter to ICE and CBP are demanding that ICE “immediately release a full and complete death review and supporting documentation on Roxana Hernández to the public,” which is already required by Congress.

“Congress requires ICE to publish an initial report, for public release, on each in-custody death for within 30 days and similarly for a final report within 60 days,” continued the letter from the Senators. “It has been over 180 days since Ms. Hernández was pronounced dead and no such report has been publicly released. ICE’s failure to release this report diminishes the systemic, traumatic, and in this case fatal, violence that transgender individuals experience daily as a result of their gender identity.”

In addition to specific actions regarding the death of Roxana Hernández, the lawmakers also asked that “ICE and CBP each provide us with complete accounting and documentation of the specific training that their officers, agents, and contractors receive related to the processing, medical evaluation and care, and safety of transgender individuals in custody.”

Elizabeth Stephanie Montez was killed over a roll of pocket change, prosecutors say. 

The trial for Cedric Green, one of four people accused in the transgender woman's October 2017 killing, began Tuesday in 117th District Court. After a jury was selected, attorneys presented their opening statements, laying out what they think evidence in the case will show. 

In his opening statement, First Assistant District Attorney Matt Manning promoted the theory that while all four suspects were played a role in the crime, Green was the one who "primarily concocted" the plan to kill Montez.

He said Montez had been seen going to Church's Chicken to exchange a roll of dimes totaling $20 for paper money. Those dimes had initially been given to co-defendant Chloe Huehlefeld by Green, but Huehlefeld said Montez had stolen them from her, Manning said. 

They went to several shops looking for the money. A employee at Church's said the roll of coins has been exchanged there. 

"I anticipate what you'll learn after that is that Mr. Green, Chloe Huehlefeld, Randy Dorsey and ... Jace Montange went to Mr. Green's apartment and had conversation about what was going to happen to Liz," Manning said. 

Manning alleged the four suspects made a plan for "retribution" by luring her near an abandoned barn on County Road 61. There, Huehlefeld threatened Montez with a gun Green had given to her. 

Huehlefeld fired a shot, Manning said. Montez ran out to the brush, and Green took the gun and handed it to Montange and told him to "finish the job." Montange shot at Montez about 12 times, Manning said. 

Green's attorney, Mark Stolley, asked the jury to consider what evidence he said they would not see. He said there's no evidence Green shot Montez; there's no DNA evidence, fingerprints linking Green to the scene or weapon that's part of the state's evidence.

Manning said the gun was disposed of in jetties near Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. 

Stolley questioned the credibility of some of the state's witnesses and their motivation for testifying. Dorsey, for example, accepted a plea deal in the case earlier this year. Stolley said he expects Dorsey to receive probation for engaging in organized criminal activity.  

He maintained the case lacks "hard evidence." 

"When you put all of that stuff together, you realize that this case just goes away with reasonable doubt and the only true and fair and just verdict is not guilty," Stolley told the jury.

Green is charged with murder and engaging in organized criminal activity. He has pleaded not guilty.

Last week, Huehlefeld was sentenced to 55 years in prison in the killing. She was tried before a Nueces County jury in October, and 117th District Judge Sandra Watts handed down her sentence weeks later. 

Huehlefeld maintained during her trial she was present when the shooting occurred but didn't take part in planning it.

Montange is scheduled to go to trial later this month, according to online court records. 

Montez, 47, was discovered on the porch of a home between Corpus Christi and Robstown in October 2017, according to an affidavit. She was "bleeding and not communicating effectively" when found by authorities, the document states. 

She was taken to a hospital, where she later died.

An autopsy found she suffered five gunshot wounds.

Most primary care physicians in the U.S. are willing to provide routine care to transgender individuals, but that doesn’t mean they are well prepared to do so, a small study suggests.

Overall, 86 percent of doctors who responded were willing to provide routine care to transgender patients and 79 percent were willing to give Pap tests to transgender men to screen for cervical cancer, according to the results reported in Annals of Family Medicine.

Many physicians, however, reported a lack of familiarity with transgender transition care guidelines, lack of training in transgender-specific care, lack of exposure to transgender patients, and lack of knowledge about transgender patients among office staff, medical assistants or nursing staff.

These barriers suggest that willingness is not necessarily equivalent to competence, study leader Deirdre Shires of Michigan State University in East Lansing told Reuters Health by email.

“A number of studies have shown that transgender people often have negative experiences when they try to access healthcare services, including experiencing bias, harassment and even being denied care altogether,” Shires said. “What we realized is that no one had really gotten the perspective of providers to find out why this was happening.”

Shires’ team sent surveys to 308 internal medicine and family practice doctors in a large Midwest health system and had evaluable responses from 140 of them.

Doctors who had met transgender people were more willing to provide Pap tests to transgender men, the researchers found. And older doctors in the survey were less willing than their younger peers to provide routine care to transgender patients.

“Medical knowledge and clinical experience may be less important than personally feeling comfortable with transgender people,” Shires said. “Therefore, it is important for medical education to address not only clinical knowledge but also personal biases and attitudes as well.”

John Ayers, a public health researcher at the University of California, San Diego, agrees.

“A lack of training was not associated with a willingness to provide care, instead the more important factor is having experience with transgender people,” said Ayers, who was not involved in the study.

“During the 80’s and early 90’s some doctors were unwilling to care for AIDS patients, but as familiarity with HIV grew this problem abated.”

The study was restricted to only one medical system, so the findings might not be widely applicable, the researchers point out.

Another limitation, notes Dr. Janelle Downing of the University of South Carolina in Columbia, who was not involved in the study, is that so many of the doctors invited to participate declined to do so.

For that reason, the responses are “likely an overreport of willingness to provide care,” because clinicians who felt uncomfortable with transgender populations may have declined to respond to the survey, Downing said.

“As more individuals are identifying as a gender other than that assigned to them at birth, younger providers are more likely to know transgender individuals and therefore more comfortable providing care for them,” Dr. Carl Streed, Jr. of the Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery at the Boston Medical Center, suggested in an email.

Streed, who was not involved in the study, said, “Given the significant lack of training in sexual and gender minority health in medical schools, it is no surprise that providers are unfamiliar with transgender health issues and primary care needs.”

“This is also rooted historically in the shuttering of transgender clinics across the United States in the late 1970’s and 1980’s,” Streed added.A 2016 study by The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law estimated that 0.6 percent of American adults, or 1.4 million individuals, identify as transgender.

It’s no surprise that after the death of former president George H.W. Bush we’re seeing media pundits, advocates and popular historians promote a rosy view of his tenure as president. In the era of Donald Trump, there’s a tendency to portray every Republican leader of the past in a nostalgic, sugar-coated way.

The first thing that caught my eye was a report on CNN’s website that included a tweet from the president of Covenant House, a charity that runs shelters across the U.S. for homeless youth and which has a historical connection to the Catholic Church. The tweet included photos of the former president and the late first lady Barbara Bush hugging children, implying that Bush was an important advocate for people with AIDS.

Then I saw a tweet from Yahoo News with a quote from the well-known historian Jon Meacham, describing Bush as a man who “believed that he was not a Republican president — he was a president,” noting that “there’s something very old-fashioned about that.”

Perhaps that was what Bush “believed,” but it was far from the truth. Bush was as captive to the evangelical right on social issues — and thus a decidedly Republican president — as was his predecessor, Ronald Reagan, who cultivated religious conservatives as a potent political force and bowed to their anti-LGBTQ agenda as the AIDS epidemic mushroomed in the 1980s. Reagan’s history of callously ignoring the epidemic while thousands died is well-documented. Bush, at the outset of his term, promised a “kinder, gentler” presidency than the man he’d served under as vice president. He even gave a speech on the AIDS epidemic in 1990, which was long on compassion but short on strategy and commitment to funding. During the speech, in fact, Urvashi Vaid, an invited guest and then the executive director of the prominent National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, now the National LGBTQ Task Force, took the unprecedented and heroic act of standing up and holding a sign, “Talk Is Cheap. AIDS Funding Is Not.”

Bush, in the end, bowed to the same extremists Reagan did when it came to AIDS and LGBTQ rights. As The Washington Post noted, Bush allowed evangelicals to mature as a movement within the GOP after Reagan brought them in, rather than pushing back.

Bush did sign the Americans With Disabilities Act, which protected people with disabilities against discrimination, including people with HIV.  And he signed 1990′s Ryan White Care Act — after it passed overwhelmingly in Congress — which federally funded treatment for AIDS for people with little resources. But it took years of work by the indefatigable Democrats Sen. Edward Kennedy and Rep. Henry Waxman, and was too little, too late. By that point, nearly 10 years into the epidemic, 150,000 cases of people with HIV had been reported in the U.S., and 100,000 people had died due to AIDS.

Bush’s administration still dragged its feet on drug treatment and refused to address prevention to the most affected community, gay and bisexual men, which it could have done by simply promoting and funding critical safer sex programs and condom distribution. When ACT UP, the AIDS activist group, targeted Bush in actions at the White House and at his Kennebunkport, Maine, summer retreat, Bush said “behavioral change” was the best way to fight the disease.

Infamously, Bush had said in a television interview that if he had a grandchild who was gay he would “love” the child but would tell the child he wasn’t normal. And like Reagan, he stocked his Cabinet with anti-gay zealots. Health Secretary Louis Sullivan, also protested by ACT UP for his terrible response to HIV, joined forces with evangelical leaders to cover up a government-funded study on teen suicide that found LGBTQ teens were at much higher risk. 

While Bush signed the Hate Crimes Statistics Act in 1990, which allowed for collecting data on anti-gay hate crimes in addition to other hate-motivated crimes, and signed a measure that struck “sexual deviation” from an immigration law used to ban LGBTQ immigrants, he took a hard turn to the far right when conservative commentator and former Reagan aide Pat Buchanan scared him with a strong challenge in the 1992 Republican primaries.

Bush eventually joined anti-gay attacks on the National Endowment for the Arts that had originated with right-wing members of Congress over the agency’s funding of queer artists, and put in place an acting chairwoman who defunded gay and lesbian film festivals. That same year, Bush signed a bill to stop the Washington, D.C., Council, a body that Congress can ultimately overrule, from offering health care benefits to domestic partners of gay and lesbian city workers.

And after Buchanan, who Bush offered a prime slot at the Republican National Convention in Houston, gave his infamous “culture war” speech, declaring there is a “religious war” in this country, and attacking, among others, the “militant homosexual rights movement,” Bush refused to denounce the speech and instead publicly denounced same-sex marriage, which was nowhere near a reality at the time. This prompted even the Log Cabin Republicans, the largest gay GOP group, to refuse to endorse him.

Meanwhile, the GOP platform that year condemned anti-discrimination statutes protecting gays and lesbians, and, responding to Democratic nominee Bill Clinton’s campaign promise to end the ban on gays serving in the military, adopted a plank banning gay service.

The military issue is instructive in defining the legacy Bush left and the direction he took the GOP on LGBTQ rights. In 1991, I wrote a controversial article for The Advocate, revealing that the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, Pete Williams — the face of the Gulf War, on television every day during the conflict— was gay while not public about it, even though the Pentagon was ejecting gay men and lesbians from the military, claiming at the time that they were susceptible to blackmail (even, illogically, if they were openly gay).

A policy that dated back decades, the gay military ban was coming under scrutiny in the Bush years because more and more people were coming out of the closet — and being thrown out of the military. Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, who had hand-picked Williams as his loyal aide, was put on the spot about my Williams revelation in an interview with Sam Donaldson on ABC News. Cheney responded by distancing himself from the anti-gay policy, saying he “inherited” it, confirming his aide would not be made to resign and stating that government employees have a right to keep government from intruding on their “private lives.”

This was seen by many as a positive indication that the Bush administration was chipping away at the gay military ban, especially as Cheney in that same week had called the policy an “old chestnut” when asked about it by openly gay Rep. Barney Frank. These actions are what inspired candidate Clinton to promise to overturn the ban, courting gay voters during the campaign.

But the Bush administration took no concrete action to change the policy, and a year later, as Buchanan threatened Bush, the president went in the complete opposite direction, doubling down on the demonization of LGBTQ people.

If Bush had come into office with perhaps a vague ambition that he might move away from the harsh Reagan years, with its religious morality crusade, he left the presidency having paved the way for his own son’s even more anti-LGBTQ administration, firmly ensconcing religious conservative power within the Republican party.

A federal district court judge on Friday denied the Trump administration’s request to block or limit the scope of a ruling that temporarily prohibits the government from enforcing its ban on transgender people serving in the military.

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, a Clinton appointee on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, said the court is not convinced the government will suffer irreparable harm without a stay of the court's October 2017 preliminary injunction.


The government had asked for a stay pending any potential, future proceedings in the Supreme Court. Bypassing normal judicial order, the Department of Justice asked the Supreme Court last week to review the case before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled.

Arguments before the appeals court are scheduled for Dec. 10.

At the very least, the government asked the district court to limit the nationwide scope of the injunction while the court weighs in, but Kollar-Kotelly refused. She said the government had not convinced the court that a more limited injunction is appropriate.

“Without supporting evidence, defendants’ bare assertion that the Court’s injunction poses a threat to military readiness is insufficient to overcome the public interest in ensuring that the government does not engage in unconstitutional and discriminatory conduct,” she said.

“After all, ‘it must be remembered that all Plaintiffs seek during this litigation is to serve their nation with honor and dignity, volunteering to face extreme hardships, to endure lengthy deployments and separation from family and friends, and to willingly make the ultimate sacrifice of their lives if necessary to protect the Nation, the people of the United States, and the Constitution against all who would attack them,’ ” she said

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