Activists Say Response to Transgender Woman's Rape in Eloy Detention Center Is Unacceptable

The Eloy Detention Center.
The Eloy Detention Center.
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Activists say authorities' response to the alleged rape of a transgender woman at an immigrant detention facility in Eloy was unacceptable.

Marichuy, whose legal name is Jesus Leal Gamino, claims she was sexually assaulted by her cellmate last month at the Eloy Detention Center, after she says she warned detention staff about getting threats from the cellmate. Activists speaking on her behalf say Marichuy still isn't safe from future assaults.

"Transgender people are not safe in their facility," Margie Diddams of the Arcoiris Liberation Team tells New Times.

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The Arcoiris Liberation Team works specifically on behalf of transgender immigrants, but Marichuy also has support from other groups, including the immigrant-rights group Puente, and the Transgender Law Center.

Marichuy is being housed at the facility while she fights her immigration case. Diddams says Marichuy had been complaining to guards at the facility -- which is managed by the Corrections Corporation of America -- about her cellmate's threats, but was told to "deal with it." After the alleged assault, she reported it, but says Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials tried to pressure her to sign a declaration that the sex was consensual.

New Times asked both ICE and CCA to respond to the specific allegations made by Marichuy and her supporters, but the written responses don't andress them.

CCA said the following:

The Eloy Detention Center is committed to the safety and dignity of every detainee in our care. We have a zero-tolerance policy for all forms of sexual abuse and sexual harassment. We take very seriously and investigate any reported allegations. Under our policy, any allegation of this nature is also reported to outside law enforcement so that an independent investigation can be conducted. We also notify our government partner, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

ICE told us that the assault was reported to ICE, and was turned over to local authorities for investigation. ICE also pointed us to specific sexual abuse and assault prevention standards for facilities it contracts with, like the Eloy facility, and said the facility has been inspected and found to be in compliance with their standards.

ICE's statement reads:

"U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is firmly committed to providing for the safety and welfare of all those in its custody. ICE has a strict zero tolerance policy for any kind of abusive or inappropriate behavior in its facilities and takes any allegations of such mistreatment very seriously. The Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General and ICE's Office of Professional Responsibility investigates all allegations of sexual abuse or other misconduct and takes appropriate action - whether it is pursuing criminal charges or administrative action - when such allegations are substantiated. Posters displayed in all ICE detention facilities direct detainees how to initiate a formal complaint. ICE meets routinely with nongovernmental organizations and other stakeholders as a part of the agency's detention working groups. As a result of these discussions as well as the agency's overall detention reform efforts, ICE has issued formal guidance to address the care and housing of vulnerable and special needs detainees."

Although ICE assured us of steps they've taken to ensure the safety of vulnerable people in their custody, the activists point to one estimate that says LGBT detainees are 15 times more likely to be sexually assaulted.

"There isn't a safe place in detention for transgender detainees," Diddams says.

She says there haven't been any steps taken to assure Marichuy will be kept safe from future assaults.

The Arcoiris Liberation Team and other groups are calling for Marichuy's release from the facility while she fights her immigration case. ICE was unable to give us specifics on her case due to privacy laws.

Got a tip? Send it to: Matthew Hendley.

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