International News

Six Suspects to be Charged in Deadly Mexico Migrant Center Blaze

Forensic workers carry the bodies of migrants, mostly from Venezuela, who died in a fire inside the National Migration Institute (INM) building, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, March 28, 2023. At least 40 people at the immigration detention center on the U.S. border died in the fire that broke out at the facility overnight, according to a statement issued by the center. (Photo: OSV News)

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — After a federal investigation, a Mexican court issued arrest warrants for six people on March 30 for their connection to a fire that killed at least 40 migrants at an immigration detention center in the border city Ciudad Juárez. 

The warrants are for three officials of the detention center, formally the National Immigration Institute; two private security guards contracted by the institute; and the migrant who allegedly started the fire, according to Sara Irene Herrerías, the federal prosecutor leading the investigation. 

Five of the six have already been arrested, and will face charges of homicide and causing injuries, she said. A complaint from Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office on March 29 accused top immigration officials of knowing about the fire, but not letting the migrants out of the facility. 

Mexico’s Public Safety Secretary, Rosa Icela Rodríguez, said that 27 migrants remain hospitalized from the fire in serious or critical condition, and one other person has been discharged. The migrant who allegedly started the fire has also been released from the hospital. 

Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador originally said the March 27 fire was started after migrants lit mattresses on fire in protest of their pending deportation. There were 68 men from Central and South America held in the detention center at the time, the institute said. 

On March 29, Pope Francis offered prayers for the migrants who died in the fire, saying, “May the Lord receive them in his kingdom and console the families.” 

Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso — the city opposite Ciudad Juárez along the U.S.-Mexico border — said the tragedy “underscores the urgency of addressing the complex humanitarian crisis.

“Our brother and sister migrants, who are in many cases fleeing extreme violence, persecution, and extreme poverty, deserve dignity, compassion, and the protection of their human rights as children of God,” Bishop Seitz said in a March 28 statement. “As a faith community, we are called to respond to their suffering with love, empathy, and support.”