A 22-year-old woman who was seeking asylum has just reportedly died while detained, making her the eighth person to die while in Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody since October. Late Monday night, reports that Maria Ochoa Yoc de Ramírez, who was an asylum-seeker from Guatemala detained by immigration authorities, died at a hospital in Fort Worth, Texas the day before. Ochoa Yoc de Ramírez died within weeks of hospitalisation since she was admitted in February.
According to official reports, she died of "autoimmune hepatitis, complicated by septic shock and acute liver failure" at the hospital she was being cared for at. Ochoa Yoc de Ramírez had been in ICE custody for more than six months after starting the process of requesting humanitarian protection from the United States government, and passing the initial step, the credible fear interview.
The young woman came to America from the San Marcos region near Guatemala's border with Mexico. Her two brothers live in America, and she was coming to join them. According to the New York Times, she had gone for an operation on her gallbladder in Oklahoma in early February and then spent a week in hospital afterwards.
The immigration process sometimes lets migrants who lack criminal records to continue to pursue the immigration process without being detained in a detention centre. However, Ochoa Yoc de Ramírez was held in ICE facilities after first being stopped and arrested by Border Patrol in September of 2019 when she crossed the border near Hidalgo, according to reports. She was then transferred to an ICE detention centre in Raymondville.
Reports show that, with Ochoa Yoc de Ramírez's death, the number of deaths of migrants in ICE custody in fiscal year 2020 have nearly surpassed the number of deaths in custody in the entire fiscal year of 2020. Inhumane conditions in ICE facilities have contributed to this increase in deaths, with unclean and unsafe living conditions and a level of treatment that has driven those detained to death by suicide, as well as becoming severely ill.
In fact, reports from the Center for American Progress in late 2019 detailed three areas critical to the health of women and girls where there are egregious rights violations happening in immigration detention centres, including maternal health, reproductive autonomy, and mental health.
The report found that in 2016, women and girls made up 14.5 percent of the population detained by ICE, which had increased 60 percent from 2009, and explored the inhumane living conditions that cause the severely increasing number of deaths in ICE custody, where many people are detained for months or years while waiting for their cases to be resolved. Deaths like Ochoa Yoc de Ramírez's are an ever-growing trend as more Central American migrants make the journey to enter the United States and become citizens, fleeing the violence and poverty of their homes.
"ICE is firmly committed to the health and welfare of all those in its custody and is undertaking a comprehensive agency-wide review of this incident, as it does in all such cases," ICE said in a statement on Monday about Maria Ochoa Yoc de Ramírez's death.