Home > Press Releases > Immigration Equality Condemns Immigration and Customs Enforcement for Johana Medina’s Death


June 3, 2019


Kristen Thompson, communications@immigrationequality.org | +1 646 723 1581

Spencer Tilger, communications@immigrationequality.org | +1 206 295 0606

Immigration Equality Condemns Immigration and Customs Enforcement for Johana Medina’s Death

Medina’s death follows pattern of ICE abuse of transgender women living with HIV

New York, NY – On Saturday, June 1, Johana “Joa” Medina, a 25-year-old HIV-positive transgender woman from El Salvador, died in El Paso, Texas shortly after being paroled from ICE custody. Due to the Trump administration’s “metering” policy, Johana reportedly waited three months in Juarez, Mexico before she could present herself at the border on April 11, 2019. She then spent more than a month in detention before she was provided a credible fear interview, which she passed on May 18. Her death comes a year after the death of Roxsana Hernandez, an HIV-positive transgender woman from Honduras, who died in ICE custody on May 25, 2018.

Aaron C. Morris, Executive Director of Immigration Equality, said:

“Johana Medina lost her life due to extreme neglect by the U.S. government. ICE must immediately address the inadequate medical care it subjects LGBTQ and HIV-positive refugees to. We condemn this pattern of abuse against transgender women in their custody.

“Johana’s death is tragic and was completely preventable. The Department of Homeland Security found that she had a credible fear of persecution. She should have been immediately released from detention to pursue an asylum claim. Instead, ICE subjected her to deplorable conditions that led to her untimely death.

“ICE clearly cannot detain transgender women safely, and therefore should not detain them at all. We call for the release of all LGBTQ and HIV-positive people currently detained. The U.S. must protect asylum seekers fleeing persecution, not subject them to life-threatening conditions of confinement.”


Immigration Equality is the nation’s leading LGBTQ immigrant rights organization. We represent and advocate for people from around the world fleeing violence, abuse, and persecution because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status. https://www.immigrationequality.org