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Trans woman sexually assaulted in male immigration detention must be released, advocates say

Vic Parsons March 14, 2020

LGBT+ leaders launch a hunger strike in Santa Ana demanding an end to ICE jail contracts. They say transgender women face abuse while in detention (Mindy Schauer/Digital First Media/Orange County Register/Getty)

A trans woman seeking asylum in the US has been sexually assaulted while locked up in immigration detention and must be released, advocates say.

Alejandra Alor Reyes, who is from Mexico, has been detained for nine months in Arizona while she waits for a decision in her asylum appeal.

In that time, which she has spent at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) immigration facility for men, she has been sexually assaulted and harassed and is now suffering PTSD, her supporters say.

ACLU of Arizona, Trans Queer Pueblo and Detention Watch Network are among the organisations calling for Reyes to be released on humanitarian grounds, according to NBC.

“ICE continues to fail to address her needs and further harms her by keeping her in custody,” said Yvette Borja, an attorney with the ACLU of Arizona.

“We are concerned about her mental health because she has been diagnosed with PTSD. It will lead to mental health deterioration if she is not released,” Borja said.

Reyes, 24, fled Mexico because of the abuse and discrimination she suffered for being a trans woman.

Before arriving at the US border to ask for asylum she was kidnapped and beaten, with part of her thumb cut off.

Despite this, she was placed in a male detention facility where she has suffered further abuse, and spent two stints – one for a whole month – in solitary confinement.

Advocates estimate there around around 90 detained transgender asylum seekers, none of which are currently housed in the correct facility for their gender.

ICE said it had offered Reyes the opportunity to be transferred to a special immigration detention facility for trans asylum seekers last August but that she had declined.

“ICE is committed to upholding an immigration detention system that prioritises the health, safety, and welfare of all of those in its care and custody, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals,” spokeswoman Yasmeen Pitts O’Keefe said.

Earlier this month, a leaked memo from Homeland Security revealed that an HIV-positive trans woman in ICE detention was left bleeding from her rectum for 13 days.

 

More: Alejandra Alor Reyes, ice, immigration and customs enforcement

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