Intransitive, an immigrant-led transgender justice organization based in Little Rock, Arkansas in the United States, participated in the #JusticeForRoxsana National Week of Action. This was done in memory of Roxsana Hernandez, in support of all transgender people in ICE custody.
Problems and Purpose:
There is a significant number of reports of inhumane treatment of immigrants in Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody, but the situation is only worse for transgender immigrants, who face abuse at incredibly high rates when they are detained . This was brought to the attention of many people after the death of Roxsana Hernandez, a transgender woman who was killed by ICE through their neglect and abuse. The purpose of this protest was to share Roxsana’s story one year after her death, educate the public about the unjust treatment of transgender people by US immigration authorities, and demand justice for all transgender people being detained in ICE detention centers.
Background History and Context:
Founded in March of 2003, ICE is a relatively young government organization formed through the Homeland Security Act that was created by President George W. Bush’s administration in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In the words of ICE, their mission is “to promote homeland security and public safety through the criminal and civil enforcement of federal laws governing border control, customs, trade and immigration .” Despite the fact that they say their mission is to promote public safety, they have been extensively criticized for their inhumane treatment of immigrants, particularly Latine immigrants and other immigrants of 1 color. While complaints of inhumane conditions have been around for years, the Trump administration has supported policies that have made this situation worse by detaining more
The issue of the treatment of transgender immigrants in ICE detention became a public conversation when Jennicet Gutiérrez from Familia: TGLM made the news in June 2015 after interrupting President Barack Obama at a White House event celebrating LGBTQ Pride Month. While he was speaking, she yelled, “President Obama, release all LGBTQ immigrants from detention and stop all deportations!” The immediate response to her at the event was negative, with other attendees shushing her and yelling their own chants shaming her for interrupting the president. In the following days, this became a national conversation as people expressed their feelings about her interuption on social media.The following Monday, 35 members of Congress sent a letter to the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to express concerns about the vulnerability of LGBTQ immigrants, particularly transgender women, who are in ICE custody. In this letter, they acknowledge that LGBTQ people are significantly more likely than the general population to be physically and sexually assaulted when imprisoned, and they found that ICE had been ignoring their own policy to release LGBTQ people in most cases due to safety concerns, instead usually choosing to detain them .
According to the Transgender Law Center, Roxsana Hernandez was a transgender woman and asylum seeker from Honduras who was taken into ICE custody after she sought protection in the United States at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in California during May 2018. After initially being taken to get medical care she was diagnosed with untreated HIV, but ICE neglected to take care of her medical needs and kept her in a cold room. There is also evidence that, in addition to being neglected, she was physically assaulted. Roxsana died in ICE custody in May of 2018. Her autopsy found handcuff injuries on her wrists, deep bruising, and evidence of blunt force trauma to her head. It was determined that she died from dehydration and HIV-related complications. The Transgender Law Center has filed a Notice of Wrongful Death Tort Claim in New Mexico on her behalf. ICE denies that they abused her .
A year after her death, members of Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement around the United States decided to organize a week of action to commemorate her death . Following their lead, other organizations around the country organized events as well. Intransitive, an immigrant-led transgender justice organization in Little Rock, Arkansas, planned a series of events in Little Rock. .
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities:
This was a part of a national call to action organized by Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, but the local events in Little Rock were led and funded by members of Intransitive, Revolución LGBTQ en Arkansas, and the Center for Artistic Revolution .
Participant Recruitment and Selection:
Intransitive, Revolución LGBTQ en Arkansas, and Center for Artistic Revolution promoted the Little Rock events for the Week of Action on Facebook and Instagram. Participants were recruited through self-selection. In total, around two dozen people physically participated in the Week of Action in Little Rock, with many of the participants attending multiple events during the week .
Methods and Tools Used:
Methods used included educating people through a documentary screening and panel, using art as activism, doing outreach through Facebook and Instagram, participating in a public demonstration, and livestreaming the demonstration on Facebook. The livestream of the event has over 260 views as of October 24, 2019 .
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation:
In Little Rock, the #JusticeForRoxsana Week of Action began on May 26, 2019 with Trans Migrants Stories/Historias de Migrantes Trans, a bilingual event hosted by Intransitive and Revolución LGBTQ en Arkansas. Center for Artistic Revolution hosted the event in their space inside the First Presbyterian Church on Scott Street in downtown Little Rock. At this event, Intransitive shared a documentary they created about their work with a transgender community in a city in Mexico who were trying to find a transgender woman who had gone missing. This documentary was followed by a panel led by two transgender Latina members of Revolución LGBTQ en Arkansas, along with another transgender Latine immigrant from the community.
The panelists shared their stories and answered questions from the audience. All of this was shared in both Spanish and English, with Diego Barrera from Intransitive serving as an interpreter. Approximately 20 people participated in this event .
The next event Intransitive hosted was on May 28, when members of the community were invited to return to Center for Artistic Revolution and help paint a banner to drop over the Martin Luther King, Jr. bridge for people on the interstate to see. The participants collaborated to create a banner featuring a painting of Roxsana surrounded by flowers and the words #JusticeForRoxsana. A very small group participated in this activity. Based on social media posts, it appears 5 people participated, most of which were members of the aforementioned organizations that led this Week of Action .
On May 30, members of the community came together with the banner and transgender flags at the Arkansas State Capitol. After talking about why they were there and chanting together, the group marched to the bridge on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive over the interstate. From there, they held the banner over the side of the bridge for traffic to see. Participants held up signs and waved at the cars below, and many passing vehicles honked as they drove under the bridge. After some time passed, the participants switched to the other side of the bridge so that traffic coming from the other direction could see the banner. Once a significant amount of time had been spent holding the banner for oncoming cars to see, the group walked together to their cars and went home. This entire event was livestreamed on Facebook, many photos were taken, and all of this was shared on Facebook and Instagram with the hashtag #JusticeForRoxsana . All of these events were open to the public and advertised on social media .
Influence, Outcome, and Effects:
#JusticeForRoxsana had online influence, with actions from all over the country posted on social media. The Little Rock action at the Capitol and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive bridge was filmed and put online, to be documented with the other actions occurring nationally . It was influential on a local level because the participants left with new knowledge about this important issue, people watching online were educated about this issue, new relationships were built between participants, and members of Revolución LGBTQ en Arkansas were reunited, which is significant because this organization had been inactive for a while before they assisted with the Week of Action . Unfortunately, the Trump administration has not stopped detaining immigrants, nor are they making any exceptions for transgender immigrants.
Analysis and Lessons Learned:
The #JusticeForRoxsana National Week of Action was successful in engaging organizations around the country to spread awareness about this issue. While no policy changes occurred as a result of these protests, this was still a successful example of public participation because it educated people about an important issue. In Little Rock, this education was especially apparent during their panel and documentary screening, when participant discussion and questions were encouraged. .
 American Civil Liberties Union. (n.d.). ICE and Border Patrol Abuses. Retrieved October 24, 2019, from https://www.aclu.org/issues/immigrants-rights/ice-and-border-patrol-abuses.
 National Center for Transgender Equality. (2018, November 28). Transgender Asylum Seekers Face Mistreatment and Abuse in ICE Detention. Retrieved from https://medium.com/transequalitynow/transgender-asylum-seekers-face-mistreatment-and-abuse in-ice-detention-4b7584dda883.
 National Center for Transgender Equality. (2016, December). The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Retrieved from https://www.transequality.org/sites/default/files/docs/USTS-Full-Report-FINAL.PDF.
 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (2019). History. Retrieved from https://www.ice.gov/history.
 Stack, L. (2015, June 25). Activist Removed After Heckling Obama at L.G.B.T. Event at White House. Retrieved from
 Transgender Law Center. (2019). Roxsana Hernandez. Retrieved from https://transgenderlawcenter.org/legal/immigration/roxsana.
 Castro, A. (2019, May 22). LGBTQ Organizations to Commemorate Roxsana Hernandez. Retrieved from https://transgenderlawcenter.org/archives/14547.
 Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement. (2019). #JusticeForRoxsana Day of Action - June 6, 2019. Retrieved from https://familiatqlm.org/justiceforroxsana/.
 Intransitive and Revolución LGBTQ en Arkansas. (2019, May). Trans Migrants Stories | Historias de Migrantes Trans. https://www.facebook.com/events/2481343922094268/.
 Intransitive. (2019, May). Day of Action | Día de Acción JusticeForRoxsana. https://www.facebook.com/events/1107358256117884/?active_tab=about.
 Intransitive. (2019, May 30). #JusticeForRoxsana. Retrieved October 25, 2019, from https://www.facebook.com/intransitive.AR/videos/2089881367973869/?q=justiceforroxsana intransitive&epa=SEARCH_BOX.
 Bolt, M. (2019, May 26). Personal observations.
 Bolt, M. (2019, May 30). Personal observations.
Lead image: Intransitive,
The first submission of this case entry was written by Mackenzie Bolt, a Master of Public Service candidate at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. The views expressed in this case study are those of the authors, editors, or cited sources, and are not necessarily those of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.