Tragedy has struck at a migrant facility in northern Mexico after a fire broke out in the section that houses male migrants, killing at least 39 people, with around 29 more injured and sent to nearby hospitals. The fire began a little before 10 p.m. on Monday, March 27th, 2023, at a local detention center in Ciudad Juárez, a city in Chihuahua, Mexico, taking the lives of mostly Venezuelan migrants who were either waiting for the right time to cross the border into the United States or awaiting asylum claims to be processed.
An investigation into the matter has been opened by the attorney general’s office in Mexico as foul play is suspected, with officials from the National Institute of Migration stating that it “strongly rejects the acts that led to this tragedy,” not elaborating any further. However, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador blamed the tragedy on migrants setting fire to mattresses after being informed of their impending deportation. Ciudad Juárez is a high-traffic area for migrants looking to enter the United States, with the detention center almost always fully occupied. Record numbers of migrants have made their way to the United States since President Biden took office, placing strain on these types of facilities.
The fire occurred just hours before two scheduled committee hearings about the crisis at the southern border took place in the House and Senate. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was set to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, as their hearing is focused on DHS oversight. Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council testified during the House hearing, which was focused on the crisis at the border, with issues like the fentanyl crisis and migrant deaths at the center of the discussion.
In early March, a trailer full of 343 migrants, including children, was discovered to be abandoned in Mexico, with rigged ventilation systems installed to prevent suffocation. The driver of the truck was not located, prompting authorities to investigate why they were deserted. As temperatures rise, this type of migrant transportation will become riskier as ventilation systems sometimes fail.