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Activists say transgender woman raped at Arizona immigrant center

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Rights activists called on Thursday for the immediate release of a transgender women allegedly raped by her cellmate at an Arizona immigrant detention center, accusing authorities of refusing to provide for her safety.

The activists say immigration and detention center officials have shown they are incapable of protecting the 23-year-old woman following the alleged July 20 sexual assault at the Eloy Detention Center, southeast of Phoenix.

The woman, Marichuy, whose legal name is Jesus Leal Gamino, has been detained for more than a year at the 1,437-detainee center, which is operated by Corrections Corporation of America under a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

"We see no other solution than for ICE to immediately release her, where her community can take measures to ... help her heal," said Francisco Luna, a spokesman for Arcoiris Liberation Team, one of the groups calling for the woman's release.

ICE confirmed the alleged rape was reported and said the case was referred to the "appropriate authorities" for investigation. In a statement, it said it was committed to ensuring 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," it said.

An ICE spokeswoman said the agency could not discuss the woman's immigration case history due to privacy concerns.

A Corrections Corporation spokesman would not specifically comment on the case, but said its officials also take such matters seriously and investigate reported allegations.

"Any allegation of this nature is also reported to outside law enforcement so that an independent investigation can be conducted," the company said in a statement.

(Editing by Daniel Wallis and Eric Walsh)

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