Mexican authorities are investigating eight employees and officials for possible misconduct at a migrant detention center in Ciudad Juarez where a fire killed 39 detained men. The investigation is focused on the fact that guards appeared to make no effort to open cell doors for the detained men before smoke filled the room in a matter of seconds.
Five of those under investigation for possible misconduct are private security guards, two are federal immigration agents, and one is a Chihuahua state officer. The Mexican officials have also placed blame for the deaths largely on private, subcontracted security guards at the detention center.
Video footage of the fire incident showed guards hurrying away from the smoky fire apparently without trying to free detainees. Adding to anger over the deaths was pent-up frustration of migrants who have spent weeks trying to make appointments on a U.S. cellphone app to file asylum claims.
The high level of frustration in Ciudad Juarez was already evident earlier this month when hundreds of mostly Venezuelan migrants tried to force their way across one of the international bridges to El Paso, acting on false rumors that the United States would allow them to enter the country. U.S. authorities blocked their attempts.
The migrants were stuck in Ciudad Juarez because U.S. immigration policies don’t allow them to cross the border to file asylum claims. But they were rounded up because Ciudad Juarez residents were tired of migrants blocking border crossings or asking for money.
Meanwhile, hundreds of migrants walked to a U.S. border gate hoping to make a mass crossing. The tragic incident at the migrant detention center has only added to their frustration and desperation to seek asylum in the United States.
The Mexican government has vowed to investigate and hold accountable those responsible for the deaths at the detention center. However, the incident has also highlighted the dire conditions faced by migrants in detention and the urgent need for reform in the country’s immigration system.