The Advocate magazine has its important place in LGBT history, but it earned some series Tucson love this week running a beautiful op-ed from Mariposas Sin Fronteras and Southside Workers' Center's Raul Alcaraz Ochoa on his work helping undocumented in detention, with this op-ed calling important attention to two friends who are transgender and their heartbreaking experiences in detention.
From the Advocate:
Recently my friend Marichuy Leal Gamino let me know, for example, that she was raped while in detention at Eloy, Ariz., in a detention center run by the Corrections Corporation of America. Marichuy, a 23 year-old transgender woman originally from Mexico, has been in detention for a year with an all-male population. Although she complained to guards that she was sexually harassed, bullied, and threatened, the on-duty detention officer told her to "deal with it."
When her cellmate sexually assaulted her and she reported it, the staff pressured her to sign a statement saying that the rape was consensual sex. Now, as advocates call for her release, she has been placed in solitary confinement, a practice that instead of “protecting” her is shown to be psychologically harmful.
Another friend, Jazmin, a transgender woman from Honduras, also wrote to me about her experiences in detention: “One time, I was ordered to strip off my clothes in front of all men. They [the guards] didn’t care that I had undergone hormone treatment and had breasts. They violated my body.”
In another instance, Jazmin’s HIV-positive status was recklessly disclosed by guards in front of a large group of detainees. Jazmin told me she wanted to crawl under a rock and that she often contemplated suicide. This isn't what she expected when she crossed the scorching Arizona desert, leaving behind family abuse, social discrimination, HIV stigma, and persecution based on gender identity and sexual orientation in Honduras for what she hoped would be a better life in the U.S.
The letters and calls don't stop. As a result, I cofounded Mariposas Sin Fronteras with my friend Rachel Winch to help people like Marichuy and Jazmin get out of detention. Our work is a constant battle of raising funds to pay bonds to get detainees released from detention, working with other groups, like the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Project to help support their asylum claims, and the Arcoiris Liberation Team in Phoenix to do public advocacy campaigns to apply pressure on Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release our friends and change the abusive conditions. We also write letters of support, do visitation days, accompany detainees to court, and listen to gripping stories of fear, isolation, and resilience.
Alcaraz Ochoa and his friends need your help. Go to the Mariposas Sin Fronteras blog for details on how to donate.