By Kaden Scharnow
38 people were killed in a blaze at a Mexico-US Deportation Center in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Monday night, March 27th. Reports state the blaze broke out after detained migrants set mattresses on fire as a protest against being deported back to their home countries. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador believes the migrants never intended the blaze to be so fatal, stating that “They didn’t imagine this would cause this misfortune.” Some, like Venezuelan migrant Anthony Gonzalez, who was held at the facility a week prior, find it hard to believe the migrants started the fire. Gonzalez stated that the migrants are behind padlocked doors and that “they take everything from you before entering.” He also added that it was “like a jail.”
Dozens more were injured in the blaze, with 29 taken to the hospital in “delicate-serious condition” stated Mexico’s National Migration Institute. The Institute also added most migrants held in the facility hailed from Central and South America. According to Mexico’s Prosecutor General, 28 Guatemalans, 13 Hondurans, 12 Salvadorans, 12, Venezuelans, a Colombian and an Ecuadorian were among the 68 migrants affected by the fire.
The Institute stated that immigration authorities will provide Visitor Cards for Humanitarian Reasons to the injured migrants, and will cover the medical requirements for a speedy recovery. Migrants in the blaze, who were victims of crime in Mexico or are seeking refugee status, are also eligible for the cards.
Betty Camargo, the state programs director at the Border Network for Human Rights spoke to some of the migrants who witnessed the fire and stated that the authorities at the center told some of the detained migrants that they would be deported. And while some had temporary work permits, such permits would be taken away and they would be deported anyway. Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights said migration centers should not be “detention centers.” The unusual treatment the migrant center authorities used on the migrants prompted a deeper investigation into the true cause of the fire.
Most migration centers run by the National Migration Institute are meant to be processing centers and temporary shelters for migrants-in-transit. The Chihuahua state facility is on the Mexico side of a bridge connecting Ciudad Juarez, and El Paso, Texas. Ciudad Juarez is a major crossing point to the U.S border, and its shelters are full of migrants waiting for an opportunity to cross, or those in the asylum process.