What caused the fire at the border in Mexico? President promises not to hide behind

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has vowed that his government is thoroughly investigating the fire that killed at least 38 migrants at a detention center in the border town.

Surveillance video circulating on social media appears to show no effort is being made by staff to help desperate prisoners who remained behind bars Monday night as smoke billowed and flames spread. One detainee kicks the bars, apparently trying to force the door.

“There is no intention to hide what happened and no intention to protect anyone,” López Obrador told reporters Wednesday at his daily press conference in Mexico City. “In our government, we do not tolerate human rights violations or impunity.”

The president also assured people in the homelands of the victims that the case would be investigated “to find out what really happened.”

News of the fire caused panic in communities across Latin America as relatives of migrants bound for the US rushed to check on them.

Mexican authorities added to the confusion by giving the names of the dead and wounded, without specifying who fell into which group. The original list, released late Tuesday evening, included 68 migrants, but the updated list contained 66. All were men: 28 from Guatemala, 12 from Venezuela, 13 from Honduras, 12 from El Salvador and one from Colombia.

Authorities said of the hospitalized victims, 17 remain in critical condition, while nine are said to be in “delicate” condition and two are said to be stable.

On Tuesday, the president said the fire started after migrants learned they were about to be deported to their homeland and set fire to mattresses in protest.

But migrants and activists here say they want details about why, and demand to know why the authorities at the prison were unable to put out the flames or release the prisoners locked behind bars.

It is also not clear if a fire alarm or sprinkler system was functioning at the site.

“We are all very upset, we don’t know what happened to our friends — who survived, who died,” said Paola Aliendres, 29, a mother of two from Venezuela, who was among dozens of migrants who gathered near the charred site. is here late Tuesday evening to protest the government’s handling of the case. “It looks like they want to blame everything on us.”

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Tuesday that those responsible for the fire had been identified and would be “represented” to federal prosecutors. He did not provide details about their identities.

Even before the fire tensions over immigration in Ciudad Juarez were running high.bustling manufacturing hub across the Rio Grande from El Paso.

Tens of thousands of migrants from all over Latin America and the Caribbean were stuck here and in other Mexican border towns in recent years when the US government pressured Mexico to help stop them from infiltrating the United States.

It has not been publicly known whether any of the dead or injured have been returned by US authorities under Section 42, a public health law that has been used during the pandemic to expel tens of thousands of unauthorized border crossings back to Mexico in recent years, denying them access a chance to apply for political asylum or other potential assistance in the United States.

Here, migrants accuse the Mexican authorities of harassing or groundlessly arresting them, sometimes raiding hotels and hostels, or detaining them on the streets, where many sell trinkets, food and other items. Not only do migrants face deportation, they say, but they are often bussed south—sometimes to Mexico’s border with Guatemala, nearly 2,000 miles away—in an attempt to thwart their attempts to enter the United States.

“They just come and take us away for no reason,” said Aliendres, a mother from Venezuela. “We’re just trying to make a living and survive, and hopefully one day we’ll fulfill our dream of going to the United States.”

The Migrant Detention Center, located about 100 yards from the Rio Grande that separates Mexico and the United States, is one of many across the country run by the Mexican government’s National Immigration Institute. The center employs both federal employees and private contractors.

Migrants have long complained about mistreatment and overcrowding in federal prisons.

Monday’s fire is considered the deadliest incident to date in any of the short-term detention facilities for irregular migrants.

It was the latest in a series of tragedies that have claimed the lives of hundreds of migrants in recent years.

In June, 53 people from Mexico and Central America died in a stuffy truck abandoned in San Antonio.

In December 2021, 55 migrants, mostly Guatemalans, were killed when a truck carrying them crashed in the southern state of Chiapas in southern Mexico.

Authorities said that in 2010 members of a Mexican drug cartel kidnapped and killed 72 migrants, mostly from Central America, in the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas. Officials say the migrants were killed after they refused to work for a criminal gang.

Special Correspondents Gabriela Minjares in Ciudad Juarez and Cecilia Sánchez Vidal in Mexico City contributed to this report.