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UPDATE: Deadly fire at Ciudad Juarez kills 39 migrants from Central America


Editor’s Note: This story is updated from top to bottom with the latest updates up top.

March 29, 3:49 p.m. 

Protests are currently happening both in front of the National Migration Institute at the Lerdo-Stanton Bridge, and a ‘large’ group of migrants are heading to the border wall near the Border Highway. Reports by KTSM, say the Santa Fe bridge was reportedly closed but reopened at 3:24 p.m. The deadly fire has now taken the lives of 39 migrants.

March 28, 7:50 p.m. 

Reports by  several local news outlets say that immigrants  protested outside the National Migration Institute at the Lerdo-Stanton Bridge. The reason for the protest was to demand the authorities  release a list of  names of the individuals who died in the fire.  

Monica Tovar, a Venezuelan, arrived at the borderland 15 days ago, and joined the protest to support friends who had family members imprisoned at the facilities. She explains that not only do they want to know the names of the victims of the fire, but they are also asking for an explanation as to how it happened. Monica herself has been imprisoned by Immigration and explains that when detained, all sharp objects, lighters and any time of ropes or laces are taken away, so there is no clear explanation on how the fire started. 

“Que nos den una respuesta de lo que paso ayer,” Tovar said. “Porque el incencio si ellos cuando ingresan alla, les quitan todo el material cortopunzante, encendedores, cordones de los zapatos, cordones de la ropa. Entonces, ¿cómo paso ese accidente ahí? ¿Cómo explican ellos como eso se encendió? Aparte hay videos de la cámara de seguridad ahí adentro que se ve como se están quemando y ellos no hacen nada.” 

Over 50 people from Central America gathered to talk to news outlets such as ABC Channel 7, Telemundo, The Prospector and El Diario de Juárez hoping to get the attention of the government and get an answer soon.

Signs have been tied to the bars surrounding the Migration Institute with statements such as “funding refugee is a human right, not a police issue,” and “Human Rights do not need a passport.” 

As protests continued and families searched for answers, the Chihuahua Governor, Maru Campos released a statement through social media saying that buses with medical supplies are on their way from Chihuahua, Chihuahua. She has also stated that the FGR are now in charge of the postmortem activities and continue to investigate the event.

March 28, 11:02 a.m.

El Paso and Ciudad Juárez woke up to the devastating news of a fire at the National Migration Institute at the Lerdo-Stanton Bridge, which has so far taken the lives of 39 immigrant men from Guatemala and Honduras, according to Reuters. The first report came around 11 p.m. March 27. Apart from the immediate deaths, the State Government stated a total of 83 migrants and seven employees were evacuated, along with 15 migrant women who were housed in a separate wing and 29 men currently hospitalized from severe smoke inhalation.

President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, announced today at 7:59 a.m. in his daily press release, that the fire started from the inside of the building by migrants who were arrested March 27, thinking they were going to be deported.  

“Perdieron la vida 39 migrantes,” said President López Obrador. “Esto tuvo que ver con una protesta que iniciaron, se enteraron de que iban a ser deportados y como protesta a la puerta del albergue pusieron colchonetas y les prendieron fuego. Y no imaginaron que esto iba a causar esta terrible desgracia. Esta ya el director de migracion y todas las autoridades que tienen que ver con estos hechos y desde luego la fiscalia general de la republica para proceder legalmente.” 

The fire was started by men who piled mattresses and blankets at the men wing of the migration center and set it on fire. As reported by the local newspapers, the State of Chihuahua offered support for both the victims and their families, by transporting them to Red Cross, IMSS, and other medical centers throughout Ciudad Juárez. 

An investigation has been launched by the Prosecutor General’s Office of Mexico (FGR), attempting to hold the officers in charge of the facility accountable for damage of property and homicide. The investigation is relying on the possibility of the officers taking too long to open the doors and allow people to evacuate the building, according to El Diario de Juárez.  

On top of that, migrants around Ciudad Juárez have been removed from the streets, which spiked speculations that the fire and the removal of such were related. To the latter, Ciudad Juárez Mayor Cruz Pérez Cuellar responded with the following:  

“Son hechos totalmente distintos, si alguien quiere empatarlos es ya querer lucrar politcamente con una tragedia tan grave como ésta, esto es muy lamentable porque lo que ocurrió en las calles no tiene niguna relación con lo qué pasó ahí, son hechos completamente distintos, y desde luego que nosotros tenemos que cuidad los derechos humanos de los migrantes y de los ciudadanos.” 

Pérez Cuellar laments the death of the 39 migrants and condemns those who are trying to link the actions taken by the authorities to mobilize migrants out of the streets and the fire at the National Migration Institute, emphasizing that these two events are not linked. 

While the bridge continues operating, it is advised for pedestrians to avoid the area and cross through the Santa Fe Bridge.  

The Prospector will update this story as updates come in from officials. 

María L. Guerrero Duran is the web and copy editor and may be reached at [email protected].  

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About the Contributor
Maria L. Guerrero Duran
Maria L. Guerrero Duran, Web/Copy Editor
Maria L. Guerrero Duran is the web editor and copy editor for The Prospector. She is a senior, majoring in English and American literature with a minor in translation at the University of Texas at El Paso. She plans on joining the book publishing field and is interested in becoming an editor and a translator.
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UPDATE: Deadly fire at Ciudad Juarez kills 39 migrants from Central America