TDoR 2019 / 2019 / June / 01 / Johana Medina León ("Joa")

Johana Medina León ("Joa")

Age 25

1 Jun 2019
El Paso, Texas (USA)
Died in custody

TDoR list ref: tgeu/1-Jun-2019/Johana Medina León (""Joa"")

Johana Medina León ("Joa")
Johana Medina León ("Joa") [photo:]

Joa was a detained Salvadorian asylum seeker. She had been asking for medical help for nearly 2 months, but ICE only took her to hospital after she lost consciousness.

* ICE is Immigration Customs Enforcement, a US federal agency known to mistreat detained asylum seekers.

Grecia, a trans activist from Casa Migrante in Juarez, Mexico who accompanied Joa until the end said the following:

"Her name was Johana Medina, known to her friends as Joa. She was in ICE detention for two months in a New Mexico facility. For weeks she pleaded for medical help, referring to health problems caused by complications with HIV/AIDS.

After two months of suffering, Joana became extremely ill and unconscious forcing ICE to take her to Las Palmas del Sol Hospital in El Paso, Texas. This morning I went to visit her at the hospital intensive care unit. When I looked at her I said that what happened a year ago to Roxana in the month of May could happen to Joa right in there.

And it did. Unfortunately today at 21:00 hrs I got called by the hospital to tell me that she had passed away... ¨

Diversidad Sin Fronteras issued the following statement:

“We regret to inform the community that ICE has taken one more of our sisters. Johana Medina aka Joa, a Salvadoran trans woman has died in ICE custody in a hospital of El Paso, Tx yesterday at 21:00.”

“We’re seen as people that aren’t part of society. Like we’re a disease. Inhuman.” said the five trans asylum seekers interviewed by the San Antonio Express-News who are in or recently released from the Pearsall detention center.

Joa is the 23rd person overall and the second trans person to die while in ICE custody according to an NBC report dated Jan 6th 2019. Most like Roxana Hernández have died due to the Trump administration’s uncaring erratic detention policies. Adding insult to injury many and have suffered continuing inhumanities as the Government lies about and tries to hide their deaths.

We will update when more information becomes available.

Rest in Power Joa.

Later the same day a friend issued the following update:

This the latest info I have gathered from family and friends regarding Joa's passing in ICE detention. Dates are approximate and they are gathered from phone convos:

Before April 11th: She had been waiting for her number #7326 to come up for her to present legally to seek asylum. She waited nearly three months in Juarez.

April 11th: She presented to CBP in El Paso, Tx. According to testimonies from her boyfriend and other trans women present: "she was told she was not trans", that "she was a man." Unlike her other comrades, she was not paroled out but sent to Otero County Processing Center.

May 21st: She calls her boyfriend to El Salvador telling him that she is not feeling well. She tells him she misses him and that was the last time he spoke to her.

From April 11th to May 23rd or 24th: Her health deteriorated. In El Salvador she was a certified nurse so she knew she was unable to take medication orally and in repetitive occasions she told ICE officers she needed an (IV) solution, that she could do it herself but she just needed the medication.

May 23th-25th: ICE decides to take her to the hospital after she appears to be unconscious. According to family members, she was granted release on recognizance the day she was dropped off at the hospital.

June 1st: Her uncle and Grecia, a trans leader from Juarez are notified Joa has passed away in Las Palmas del Sol hospital at 9:05pm.

She was loved by all of her family including her grandma the main reason for her to travel thousands of miles to be detained in inhumane conditions. She was unable to practice her nursing profession as an open trans woman so her dream was to come to the US to get certified and make a living healing people.

We send condolences to her partner, family, and friends.

Subsequently it emerged that ICE had deliberately withheld even basic medical care.

Medina León, who worked as a nurse in El Salvador, recognized that she needed IV fluids, but was denied. When she asked for water, sugar and salt so she could make her own IV, Ice also refused, the claim said. The treatment in Ice custody was so bad that Medina León, who was fleeing violence in her home country, requested to be deported so she could get medical attention, lawyers said. That request was also denied.

“She came to the US because she thought it was a great country and that she would be safe there,” her 22-year-old sister, Gabriela León, said in an email to the Guardian, sent by her lawyer. “She did everything right but was treated as a criminal … She shouldn’t have died. She went to the US seeking protection and now she is coming home to us dead.”

Christopher Dolan, an attorney who filed the claim, added: “She was desperate, because the government would not provide her with assistance of any kind for her medical needs.”

Report added: 2 Jun 2019. Last updated: 13 Jan 2021

Trigger warning

This site contains reports of violence against transgender people, and links to detailed reports which contain graphic imagery.

Please continue with caution.


Get me out of here!