Immigration Other Issues

Guatamalan Refugee Maria Celeste Ochoa Yoc de Ramirez Dies in ICE Custody

22-year-old Maria Celeste Ochoa Yoc de Ramirez died in ICE Custody in Fort Worth, Texas, on Sunday. This marks the eighth death in ICE Custody since October.

The cause of death was “autoimmune hepatitis, complicated by septic shock and acute liver failure,” according to an ICE Press release. Ochoa Yoc de Ramírez had been hospitalized in the Texas Health Fort Worth hospital since February 28.

Ochoa Yoc de Ramírez was first apprehended by Border Patrol agents in September, near Hidalgo, Texas. Over the course of her detention, Ochoa Yoc de Ramírez was hospitalized several times–once for surgery, once for abdominal pain, and once before her death.

Like many of the immigrants who died in ICE Custody, she was seeking humanitarian protection. ICE noted that Ochoa had already passed a crucial first step in seeking asylum, her “credible fear” interview.

Over the past year, conditions in ICE facilities have come under increased scrutiny. Congress began an investigation into ICE detention and border patrol practices, citing concerns about family separations and medical abuse of immigrants. In December, Buzzfeed News reported a whistleblower complaint, which showed widespread medical abuse in ICE facilities. There were “reports of detainees being given incorrect medication, suffering from delays in treating withdrawal symptoms, and one who was allowed to become so mentally unstable he lacerated his own penis and required reparative surgery.”

ICE maintains that deaths in the agency’s custody are “exceedingly rare and occur at a fraction of the national average for the U.S. detained population.”

Rafael Ochoa wants justice for his sister. “We are heartbroken,” Ochoa, stated in an interview with the Dallas Morning News, “We want justice. She is not the first Guatemalan to die…We want justice.” He added, “My sister did not suffer from any disease. My little sister was full of life at only 22 years old.”

[ICE, 3/9/2020] [Dallas Morning News, 3/10/2020] [CBS News, 3/9/2020] [Buzzfeed News, 12/12/2019] [Dallas Morning News, 3/10/2020]