United States

Transgender Asylum Seeker Dies After Six Weeks in ICE Custody

In a Facebook post about Johana Medina Leon's death, Diversidad Sin Fronteras, an advocacy group for LGBTQ refugees, said that Medina Leon had pleaded to ICE for medical attention

A transgender woman from El Salvador seeking asylum in the U.S. died on Saturday in a Texas hospital four days after being released from custody, officials and advocates said.

Johana Medina Leon, 25, complained of chest pains and was brought to Del Sol Medical Center in El Paso, Texas, on Tuesday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said. That same day, ICE said she was processed for release on parole. Medina Leon died on the first day of pride month, NBC News reports.

Medina Leon, who was known to friends as Joa, had been detained in the U.S. since mid-April. On May 18, Medina Leon received a positive credible fear finding, ICE said. Advocates told NBC News Leon was seeking asylum in the U.S. as a transgender woman.

Medina Leon was being held at Otero County Processing Center, a private detention center in New Mexico where the ACLU and the Santa Fe Dreamer Project recently alleged poor treatment of and "unconscionable conditions" for LGBTQ immigrants. In a letter sent to ICE, the groups said "ICE’s practices at Otero have created an unsafe environment" for the LGBTQ detainees in Otero. Medina Leon fell while in ICE Custody, where she also tested positive for HIV.

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