Transgender Law Center v. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, No. 3:2019-cv-03032 (N.D. Cal., filed May 31, 2019) and No. 20-17416 (9th Cir., filed December 15, 2020)
On May 25, 2018, Roxsana Hernandez, a transgender woman, died in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and ICE refused to provide her medical treatment. Roxsana entered the United States approximately two weeks before her death, seeking protection after fleeing persecution in her home country of Honduras, and also persecution she experienced in Mexico, due to her gender identity. Roxsana, who was suffering from untreated HIV, suffered from several physical ailments including frequent vomiting, diarrhea, persistent fever, severe weight loss and a cough in which she spat up bloody phlegm. She disclosed her condition no later than May 11, 2018, and requested medical attention multiple times. ICE refused and instead shuttled her to various holding, processing, and detention facilities, depriving her of food, water, sleep, and opportunities to relieve herself. She finally received treatment on May 17, 2018. The treatment did not come soon enough, and she died in the hospital on May 25, 2018.
On January 29, 2019, Plaintiffs Transgender Law Center and Jolene K. Youngers filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to ICE and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties for any documents pertaining to Roxsana. On April 19, 2019, Defendant ICE acknowledged the FOIA request and assigned it a tracking number. On May 31, 2019, after not receiving any records responsive to the FOIA request, the Plaintiffs filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief.
On November 24, 2020, the district court granted in part and denied in part motions for summary judgment from both the Plaintiffs and the Defendants. The case was argued on appeal on November 16, 2021. On May 12, 2022, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, vacated, and remanded this case to the district court. The court of appeals held that ICE and DHS had failed to meet their burden to show that their search for records was adequate “beyond material doubt,” failed to support their withholding of responsive documents—including by relying on mere boilerplate justifications—and failed to adequately segregate responsive, non-exempt records.
Counsel: Grant & Eisenhofer P.A.; Transgender Law Center; Law Office of R. Andrew Free
Contact: Dale Melchert | Dale@transgenderlawcenter.org