04/17/2023 (written by jcarrillo) – On March 27th, a fire at the National Institute of Migration (INM), in Ciudad Juárez, broke out after detained migrants protested their deportation within a detention facility. Mexican authorities reported that the fire started when migrants set their mattresses on fire within their cells in a sign of resistance. 40 migrants were killed in the fire and 27 more were injured. Video footage leaked to multiple media outlets depicts the fire inside the center. In the video, migrants struggle to open the cell door and security personnel leave without unlocking it. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) stated the security personnel holding the key to the cell was not present during the fire (Reuters).
Mexico’s Security Minister, Rosa Icela Rodríguez, stated that she would be investigating the tragedy as a homicide. Further, Mexican authorities suspect eight employees of the detention center of possible misconduct. Rodríguez shared that five of the eight under investigation are private security guards, two are federal agents, and one is a Chihuahua state immigration officer (NPR). Additionally, Mexican officials will issue a warrant for the migrant who was believed to have started the fire.
Government responses to migrant fire
Earlier this week, AMLO visited the migrants that are being treated in a Ciudad Juárez hospital. He was met with peaceful protests from several migrants who were chanting for justice and demanding immigration laws in accordance with international human rights statutes.
Additionally, the Mexican Foreign Relations Committee of the Chamber of Deputies proposed creating a special legislative commission to assess the conditions within the center that led up to the fire. The committee expressed the importance of an impartial investigation by all branches of the government in order to ensure justice.
Lastly, those who were injured in the fire are being granted a “visitor card” from the INM which will grant them legal immigration status in Mexico for one year. INM Commissioner Francisco Garduño stated the agency will cover medical costs for those in the hospital while wishing them a “speedy recovery” (CNN).
Migrants commemorate the victims and demand more protections
The migrants set up a candle vigil outside of the INM in Ciudad Juárez to commemorate the lives lost. During the vigil, organizers distributed flyers to Mexican citizens that explained their demand for new migration policies that protected their rights (El Universal). Juan Pavón, a Venezuelan migrant, expressed that the tragedy “is a crime against humanity”. He described the detention center where 40 migrants died as having no dignity and equating it to a prison (New York Times).
Arellano, Silvia. “Diputados proponen comisión por muerte de migrantes en Ciudad Juárez”. Milenio. March 31, 2023.
Buschschlüter, Vanessa. “Outrage is growing in Mexico following a fire at a migrant centre in Ciudad Juárez that killed 38 migrants”. BBC News. March 29, 2023.
Domínguez, Pedro. “Pedirán orden de aprehensión contra migrante que inició el fuego en INM de Chihuahua”. Milenio. March 29, 2023.
Lemos, Gerardo. Astorga, Omar. Suarez, Karol. “Blaze kills at least 38 people at migrant detention center near Mexico-US border”. CNN. March 29, 2023.
Montes, Juan. Harrup, Anthony. “Mexico seeks arrest warrants, homicide charges in fire that killed 39 migrants”. The Wall Street Journal. March 29, 2023.
“México pedirá arresto de funcionarios, guardias, y un migrante que sospechan inició el incendio en Ciudad Juárez”. Telemundo. March 29, 2023.
Villa y Caña, Pedro. “AMLO anuncia visita a Ciudad Juárez tras fallecimiento de 39 migrantes”. El Universal. March 30, 2023.