Arrest warrant for 6 in Mexico detention center fire
MEXICO CITY — A Mexican court ordered the arrests on Thursday of six people in connection with a fire that killed 39 migrants at a detention facility this week in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, according to federal prosecutors. state led the investigation.
Sara Irene Herrerias said they included three National Institute of Immigration officials, two private security guards contracted by the agency and detained migrants accused of arson. She said five of the six people have been arrested and will face murder and wounding charges.
At least 39 migrants have died after apparently starting a fire inside a cell at the facility on Monday night. More than two dozen others were injured.
Federal Public Safety Minister Rosa Iela Rodríguez said 27 migrants remained hospitalized, all in serious or critical condition. She said another migrant has been discharged.
Rodríguez also said the private security company involved, which she identified as Grupo de Seguridad Privada CAMSA, had a federal contract to provide security at immigration facilities in 23 states. She said they would have their licenses revoked and face fines.
Rodríguez said 48 federal agents will be in charge of security at migrant facilities in Chihuahua state, where the fire broke out.
A video from a security camera inside the Ciudad Juarez facility shows guards walking away as a fire broke out inside the cell holding the migrants and not making any attempt to release them. It is unclear if those guards had the keys to the cell doors.
On Wednesday, a complaint filed with federal investigators from the federal Attorney General’s Office alleges the state’s top immigration official knew about the fire but ordered the migrants not to be released.
The complaint filed by attorney Jorge Vázquez Campbell said retired Navy Rear Admiral Salvador González Guerrero, Chihuahua state delegate to the National Institute of Immigration, “ordered by phone call that under no circumstances do , the migrants must not ‘stay’ inside where the fire started to be unleashed.
The agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the allegations nor a request to speak with González.
Campbell said he would not reveal the identities of his clients to protect them, other than to say they were involved in the case.
Mexican authorities announced on Wednesday that eight suspects who worked at the facility were under investigation, as were migrants accused of arson. Herrerías later said that González was not one of eight officials called in to issue a statement about the incident.
Herrerías, the prosecutor, said on Thursday that their investigation would include the entire chain of command over the immigration facility to determine what actions or omissions are punishable.
Asked directly if González had been called in to testify, Rodríguez said that prosecutors would not say anything that could jeopardize the case, but that the investigation would go where necessary.
Campbell said his client told him that one of the detained migrants asked a guard for a cigarette and a lighter and then five migrants were detained on that day started protesting.
“Officials mocked them, they became irritable and two of them (the migrants) burned a mattress,” Campbell said.
That’s when immigration officers at the facility informed González of the fire, Campbell said, and he “tells them not to do anything and under no circumstances let them leave. “
Herrerías said Wednesday that prosecutors have not seen any evidence that such a call was made, but that the investigation is continuing.
Authorities in the area have known that foam mattresses in such facilities are highly flammable and can create dangerously thick plums of smoke, since a similar fire at a youth home State-run troubles in Guatemala resulted in the deaths of 41 girls in 2017.
Rodríguez said on Thursday that questions about the locked cell, the location of the keys, where the lighter came from and why the cell was filled with highly flammable mattresses were all part of the investigation.
Mexico’s immigration detention centers have been plagued for years by allegations of corruption and poor conditions.
The circumstances of the fire have angered families in the area, who are still waiting to confirm if their loved one is alive or dead.
Late Wednesday, hundreds of migrants walked across the border in Ciudad Juarez to protest and turn themselves in to US authorities.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said on Thursday that he had told the attorney general not to give anyone special consideration and would not be granted sanctions waivers.