Fire at northern Mexican immigration detention center kills 40

Image courtesy of MGN.

03/28/2023 By Meghan O’Brien

A fire broke out in a detention center in Ciudad Juarez Monday evening, killing at least 40 people and injuring 29 others. 

According to Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the fire was caused by several mattresses that were set aflame by migrants fearing deportation.

“They never imagined that this would cause this terrible misfortune,” said Lopez Obrador in response to one of the deadliest events in a Mexican immigration center.

Migrants who were killed or severely injured in the fire had traveled from countries in Central and South America, including El Salvador, Guatemala, Venezuela and Ecuador.

Mexico is currently the third most popular destination for people seeking asylum, following the United States and Germany. It is also a country that many migrants travel through in order to gain passage into the United States. In recent years, Mexico has seen massive overcrowding within facilities, which has led to various protests and riots inside and outside detention centers.

Tension and stress in Ciudad Juarez have been high in recent months. As the city is located just south of El Paso, Texas, many of its shelters have been packed with migrants eager to gain asylum in the United States. An open letter published in early March by advocacy organizations accused authorities of physically and verbally abusing migrants, including openly questioning immigration status without cause.

After a rumor of mass immigration earlier this month, hundreds of migrants attempted mass entry into the United States by trying to cross the Paso Del Norte International Bridge, which connects Ciudad Juarez to El Paso. Barricades were quickly erected to prevent the crowd from crossing the border. 

As of now, nearly 2,200 people are housed in Ciudad Juarez shelters and awaiting safe passage in or through the United States.