Mexico facility fire – latest: 39 migrants killed after ‘protest’ in detention centre near US border

·8-min read

At least 39 people have died and at least 29 others are injured after a lethal blaze inside a government-run immigration facility in Mexico near the country’s border with the United States on Monday night.

Mexico’s president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said a group of migrants had set fire to highly flammable mattresses in protest after learning they would be deported. “They did not imagine that this was going to cause this terrible tragedy,” he said in his remarks on Tuesday morning.

The fire broke out inside the National Migration Institute in Ciudad Juarez, across from the US-Mexico border near El Paso, Texas, shortly before 10pm on Monday night, the agency announced.

The facility housed roughly 68 men from Central and South America.

The office of Mexico’s attorney general has launched an investigation.

US authorities have turned away thousands of people fleeing corruption, violence and poverty in recent years after their arrival at the border under a public health order invoked by former president Donald Trump’s administration and a so-called “Remain in Mexico” programme that has forced asylum seekers to remain on the other side of the border as their cases are pending.

Key Points

  • 28 victims are from Guatemala, authorities report

  • Mexico’s president addresses lethal fire at immigration centre

  • Were victims impacted by Title 42?

More than 100 House lawmakers call on Biden to strike down family detention proposals

17:33 , Alex Woodward

A group of 102 House lawmakers have joined Senators urging the Biden administration against restarting family detentions as the White House looks to implement other restrictions to stem the number of people arriving at the US-Mexico border.

Lawmakers have urged the administration to “maintain their commitment to not detain migrant families and children and to instead expand legal pathways and invest in community-based alternatives to detention,” they said in a statement on Tuesday.

“The harm of detaining children is clear,” the members wrote in their letter to the White House. “Even short periods of detention can cause psychological trauma and long-term mental health risks for children. We urge you to maintain your commitment to not detaining families and children and not return to a cruel policy of the past.”

Mexico’s immigration chief visiting fire victims at local hospitals

17:10 , Alex Woodward

Mexico’s national immigration commissioner Francisco Garduno Yanez is visiting fire victims in local hospitals.

At least 29 people are injured and are in ““delicate-grave” condition, according to the National Migration Institute.

US ambassador to Mexico says fire underscores importance of ‘fixing a broken’ immigration system

16:50 , Alex Woodward

US Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar said in a Twitter post in Spanish that he joins “the pain of the relatives of migrants who lost their lives and those injured” in the Ciudad Juarez fire.

“It is a reminder to the governments of the region of the importance of fixing a broken migration system and the risks of irregular migration,” he added.

28 victims are from Guatemala, authorities report

16:36 , Alex Woodward

At least 28 people who died in the fire at the Ciudad Juarez facility were from Guatemala, according to the Guatemalan Migration Institute.

Sixty-eight men were being held inside the building when it was set ablaze on Monday night, according to Mexico’s National Migration Institute. Victims were largely from Central America, though some men were from Venezuela, according to Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Top Democrats warn Biden against re-starting family detentions

16:21 , Alex Woodward

A group of Democratic senators including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, second-ranked Senate Democrat Dick Durbin, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have urged the White House to “abandon any plans to implement” a policy of detaining families who cross the US from Mexico without authorisation.

“I urge you to learn from the mistakes of your predecessors and abandon any plans to implement this failed policy,” the group wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden on Sunday and obtained by The Los Angeles Times.

Family detention, the senators argued, is “ineffective and impractical as an immigration management tool.”

The Biden administration reversed the Trump-era policy within the first few months of his administration in an effort to undo the damage to the nation’s immigration system under Donald Trump.

But the administration has implemented a number of controls to stem the number of people arriving at the southern border with policies that have been roundly condemned by immigration advocacy groups and progressive lawmakers as echoes of his predecessor.

Were victims impacted by Title 42?

16:01 , Alex Woodward

Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said that most of the 68 men at the facility were from Venezuela and South America. The National Migration Institute is working with foreign consulates to identify the victims.

It is likely that the migrants seeking asylum in the US were impacted by the Covid-19 public health order imposed under Trump that remains active during the Biden administration, allowing border officials to expel migrants seeking asylum during the pandemic. The US Supreme Court determined that the policy remains in effect until May, when the administration intends to dissolve the public health emergency.

The order has been invoked tens of thousands of times since 2020, and immigration advocates have urged the White House to lift the order, which has been tied up in courts, while thousands of vulnerable people fleeing violence, kidnapping, threats and political instablility and poverty are stuck in limbo.

The Biden administration is working with Mexico to implement other border restrictions in an effort to discourage people from making illegal crossings into Mexico and then into the US, though the White House also has rolled out a plan for thousands of migrants from Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua, as long as they apply online in a programme that has been marred by controversy.

Migrants killed or injured in the fire likely were impacted by the Title 42 policy, while others may have been seized by Mexican agents in an operation to remove migrants from road crossings where they clean windows, sell sweets or ask for money, according to La Verdad.

US authorities in contact with Mexico officials

15:50 , Alex Woodward

White House national security council spokesperson Adrienne Watson says US authorities have “been in touch with Mexican officials and stands ready to provide any needed support” following Monday’s lethal fire.

Map: Fire at Mexican immigration centre kills 39

15:39 , Alex Woodward

 (The Independent)
(The Independent)

Mexico’s president addresses lethal fire at immigration centre

15:24 , Alex Woodward

Mexico’s president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has blamed the lethal blaze on protests among men inside the facility who set mattresses on fire in protest of their looming deportation.

“As protest, at the door of the shelter, they put mattresses and set them on fire, and they did not imagine that this was going to cause this terrible tragedy,” he said in his address on Tuesday.

“We assume it was because they found out they were going to be deported,” he added.

The latest so far: At least 39 people dead in Mexican immigration centre after mattresses set ablaze in protest, president says

15:20 , Alex Woodward

At least 39 migrants have been killed and dozens more injured after a fire broke out at a Mexican immigration detention centre close to the US border.

The deadly blaze erupted in a dorm room of a facility in Ciudad Juarez in northern Mexico, just across from El Paso, Texas, late on Monday, Mexicos’s National Immigration Institute (INM) confirmed on Tuesday.

Mexico’s president Andre Manuel Lopez Obrador blamed the lethal blaze on a protest among migrants who set fire to highly flammable mattresses upon learning they would be deported, he said in remarks on Tuesday.

39 killed in fire at Mexican immigration centre close to US border