Related Mexico’s War Against Migrants

Activists in Ciudad Juarez are calling the fire at a National Migration Institute (INM) detention center that killed 40 migrants and seriously wounded 27 others on March 27 a “state crime.” After the fire started, guards who could have released the trapped men walked away, allowing the cells to burn. Five people have been arrested in connection with the tragedy.

Most of the victims were Guatemalan — many of them Indigenous — and others were from Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras and Venezuela. Vice News is reporting the detention center was used to extort migrants, who were released if they could come up with $200.

“The migrants were illegally detained in the streets of the border city through a series of operations carried out by municipal and state police, INM agents and the National Guard,” according to a statement signed by five grassroots organizations in Juarez. The street sweeps targeted migrant men as they sold handicrafts or panhandled in different parts of the city.

“This state crime is the result of the migration policies adopted by the Mexican state, which is subordinated to the United States, which has imposed its ‘security’ agenda on México,” reads the statement, released April 6. “México has become the guard dog for our neighbor to the north’s border.”

A banner with the names of 40 men killed by fire at a National Migration Institute detention center hangs in front of the INM offices in Ciudad Juárez. April 5, 2023; Photo by Cony Gutiérrez. 

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador visited Juarez in the wake of the fire but avoided publicly meeting with migrants, some of whom, together with local activists, attempted to block his motorcade.

López Obrador falsely accused the activists who protested his visit of having been sent by Maru Campos, the governor of Chihuahua state who is a member of the right-wing National Action Party (PAN).

On April 5, Juárez activists again joined with migrants to remember the 40 men who burned to death in the detention facility, which sits directly across the border from downtown El Paso, Texas.

Migrants lit candles, called out the names of those killed, and hung banners of their names from the fence outside the INM’s Juarez offices. Organizers in the border city are calling for a global day of action against xenophobia on April 10.

Read more from Dawn Marie Paley on Mexico’s immigration politics and policies here.

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