Ciudad Juarez migrant center fire to be treated as homicide case, authorities to investigate eight workers and officials
Officials made the announcement on Wednesday, March 29, following surfaced security footage that showed workers abandoning detainees.
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There could soon be justice in the migrant facility fire in Ciudad Juarez, Monday, March 27, that killed at least 39 migrant men — almost all from Guatemala, Honduras, Venezuela and El Salvador — as Mexican authorities announced on Wednesday afternoon, that eight officials or workers had been identified for possible misconduct in the blaze.
The fire will also be investigated as a homicide case, saying that government workers and private security employees did not make any attempt to free the detainees.
This came nearly a day after surfaced security footage showed officials walking away from the blaze just as it’s starting to grow, leaving the migrants behind. Smoke quickly fills the room just seconds after the guards leave the frame and before the video cuts out.
“None of the public servants, nor the private security guards, took any action to open the door for the migrants who were inside where the fire was,” said Sara Irene Herrerías Guerra, a federal human rights prosecutor.
An investigation was opened "for the crime of homicide and damage to property," and any other possible crimes would be accounted for, said Sara Irene Herrerias, a prosecutor specializing in human rights.
Authorities blamed private, subcontracted security guards at the detention center in the facility that sits across the border from El Paso, Texas. No apparent attempt was made to free the detainees from the center that forces migrants to stay as they wait on answers for asylum.
At the press conference, no charges were announced, however, authorities said they’d be looking to secure at least four arrest warrants that same Wednesday. As of publication, no arrest warrants have been granted or issued.
One of the arrest warrants is for a migrant who was said to have been a part of the group of detainees who initially sparked the fire.
Reports initially suggested that the migrant men set fire to mattresses in protest of learning of what they thought were plans to be deported back to the southern tip of Mexico, forcing them to make their way across the second-largest country in North America once again if they wanted to get to the U.S.
Authorities added that a migrant also damaged a security camera inside the cell where the fire occurred. It is uncertain whether the two guards from the video actually had the keys, but authorities said Wednesday that they should have gotten them or broken the lock.
It was revealed that 15 women were released when the fire broke out, and with no reason as to why no men were let out.
Officials also addressed the country’s handling of immigration after much scrutiny and criticism regarding how it’s handled the surge of migrants crossing Mexico to get to the U.S. over the past year.
“Our country’s immigration policy is one of respect for human rights,” said Rosa Icela Rodríguez, the government’s secretary of security. “This unfortunate event, which is the responsibility of public servants and guards who have been identified, is not the policy of our country.”
The Biden Administration has also faced similar criticism regarding immigration policy, specifically a COVID-19 era policy that still limits, nearly three years later, the number of people allowed to seek asylum.
A White House official tweeted that the U.S. would help treat some of the roughly 30 people still hospitalized in critical or serious condition.
As for the death toll that has changed in small increments since Monday, Rodríguez said the toll would change because several deceased and injured migrants haven’t yet been identified.
Rodríguez also said that the Mexican foreign ministry has been in contact with Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Venezuela regarding help with identifying bodies as well as supporting the families of those affected.
Immigration activists and organizations been vocal since the tragedy about their distrust and disdain towards the Mexican, Central and South American governments, putting the blame of the loss of over 39 lives on the leaders of these countries, immigration lawmakers in Mexico and the U.S., including the just under 2 million citizens in Ciudad Juarez who have complained about the growing presence of migrants asking for money on the corners of their neighborhoods.
In a statement from a group of advocates, they said, “Mexico’s immigration policy kill.”