Reporters granted access to ICE transgender detainee unit – Washington Blade

The Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, N.M. Roxsana Hernández, a transgender woman from Honduras with HIV, died in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody on May 25, 2018, after she had been held at the facility. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

MILAN, N.M. — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Wednesday for the first time granted reporters access to a unit created specifically for transgender women who are in their custody.

Reporters from the Washington Blade; the Associated Press; Univision and KFOX, a television station in El Paso, Texas, toured the unit at the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, N.M.

CoreCivic, a private company that was once known as the Corrections Corporation of America, operates the facility that is roughly 80 miles west of Albuquerque in rural Cibola County.

The unit in which 27 trans women are currently detained opened in 2017. Cibola County Correctional Center Assistant Warden Betty Judd and Corey A. Price, field office director for ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations in El Paso, were among those who accompanied the reporters on the tour alongside ICE spokespeople Danielle Bennett and Leticia Zamarripa.

The reporters were not allowed to speak with individual detainees and were not granted access to the unit in which detainees are held in solitary confinement. The reporters were also not allowed to bring telephones or recording devices into the facility.

The tour took place less than 13 months after Roxsana Hernández, a trans Honduran woman with HIV who had been briefly detained at the Cibola County Correctional Center, died in ICE custody at an Albuquerque hospital.

Three trans women from Mexico and El Salvador who were previously detained at the facility told the Washington Blade on Tuesday during an interview at the Albuquerque offices of the Santa Fe Dreamers Project that access to medical care and adequate food were among the issues they faced while in detention. ACLU of New Mexico Staff Attorney Kristin Greer Love earlier in the day sharply criticized ICE over the treatment of trans women who are in their custody.

“It strains the imagination that ICE can even say out loud that they’re providing adequate medical care when there’s so many documented reports and tragic deaths that were likely preventable in ICE detention,” she told the Blade during an interview at her office in downtown Albuquerque.

Price told the Blade after the tour that ICE’s food standards are “very rigorous.” He also defended the medical care that trans detainees receive while in his agency’s custody.

“Medical is something we take very, very seriously,” said Price.

The Blade will update this story.

From left: Johely, a transgender woman from Mexico’s Nayarit state, speaks with Alma Rosa Silva-Bañeulos of the Santa Fe Dreamers Project’s offices in Albuquerque, N.M., on June 11, 2019. Daniela was in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody at the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, N.M., for several months until her release in January 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)