Advocates Denounce Culture of Abuse at Eloy, Call for Immediate Release of Latest Victim

Advocates are calling for the immediate release of a transgender woman who has been detained in the privately-run Eloy Detention Center in Arizona for over a year, after she was sexually assaulted by her cellmate in late July. ICE officials have been advised of the situation on multiple occasions, but have failed to take adequate measures to ensure her safety, even trying to pressure her to sign a declaration claiming that the rape was consensual sex.  The Eloy Detention Center, run by the Corrections Corporation of America, is known for enabling and creating a culture of abuse and neglect: two detained immigrants committed suicide there within a week of each other last year and abuse and neglect of detained LGBTQ immigrants is commonplace, according to reports from those currently and previously detained there.

marichuyphotoMarichuy (legal name: Jesus Leal Gamino, A# 047-283-870) experienced bullying, lewd comments, and threats of rape from her cellmate for weeks before the incident.  She reported the abuse to an on-duty detention officer and was ignored and told to “deal with it.”  After she was raped, Marichuy reported the attack as soon as she could but has still been offered no real recourse or assurance that her safety will be protected.

Francisco Luna of the Arcoiris Liberation Team says, “ICE has shown that they are incapable of ensuring Marichuy’s protection from future assaults or retaliation for reporting the awful sexual abuse she has survived.  We see no other solution than for ICE to immediately release her, where her community can take measures to ensure that her community can help her heal.”

Like most transgender women in immigrant detention, Marichuy faces a particularly high risk of sexual violence. According to the Center for American Progress, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) detainees are 15 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than their heterosexual, non-transgender counterparts.

The escalating call for Marichuy’s freedom comes the day after LGBTQ immigrants staged a sit-in at the Congressional Equality Caucus, demanding that upcoming administrative relief include LGBT-specific measures, including increased protection for LGBTQ people in immigration detention.  In an open letter calling for support from LGBTQ-allied congresspeople, the activists wrote,  “If ICE cannot guarantee LGBTQ people’s safety, they should not be detaining them. “ Clearly, there was willful recklessness and negligence by facility staff and ICE that led to Marichuy being sexually assaulted.  Marichuy is not the only detained immigrant vulnerable to sexual abuse, and we call for the immediate release of Marichuy and other vulnerable populations who ICE is incapable of keeping safe.

Why we include Marichuy’s legal name: Transgender Law Center typically honors and only publicizes people’s preferred names. Unfortunately, in this case, in order for people to contact ICE, including reporters, and appropriately advocate for Marichuy’s release, we must provide this information.

In the past few months, Transgender Law Center has been instrumental in securing the release of several detained transgender women who have faced isolation and abuse in ICE custody.

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