EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A Mexican court has issued arrest warrants for six people in connection with the fire that killed 39 migrants at a detention facility in Juarez on Monday night.
The six include three officials from the National Migration Institute, two private security guards and the person who allegedly started the fire, said Sara Irene Herrerías, the federal prosecutor in charge of the case.
Speaking during a news conference, the prosecutor said the six would face charges of causing injury and death. She said five of the six were in custody and have hearings before a judge on Thursday evening. More arrests are possible if the evidence warrants them, she added.
The fire broke out Monday night during a protest by Central and South American migrants afraid they would be repatriated or moved to facilities in the state of Chiapas, which borders Guatemala. A migrant allegedly set fire to a mattress and the blaze quickly got out of control, engulfing the offices in smoke. A leaked surveillance video shows INM agents and private security guards walking away.
Rosa Icela Rodriguez, Mexico’s Public Safety Secretary, said the federal government is cancelling the contract with the private security firm CAMSA that provided staffing at the Juarez center. She said 48 Federal Protective Service agents would be taking their place immediately.
Both officials declined to comment on statements by a Juarez lawyer alleging the order to not let 68 male migrants out of a holding cell came from the regional director of the INM. But Rodriguez promised that the investigation “will get to the bottom of things” regardless of who is involved and there would be no impunity.
She also said Mexico has not turned down an offer from the United States to provide medical care for 10 survivors of the fire that remain in serious to critical condition in Juarez hospitals and are on ventilators. She said Mexican doctors have said they are properly managing the patients’ health.
In Juarez, migrants standing at a memorial to the victims outside the INM building where the tragedy occurred said they want a transparent investigation.
“We want the truth to be known and for whoever is responsible to be detained,” said Karely Tapia, a Venezuelan.
Her countryman, Jose Cubillan, said he understands why the migrants set fire to mattresses, which led to the fatalities.
“People have to understand we are human beings. People wanted to leave because they locked them up and were going to deport them,” Cubillan said. “The desperation of being taken to Tapachula (in southern Mexico) made them put pressure to be released. They set fire to a mattress to see if they would be released.”
(The Associated Press and Juarez freelance photojournalist Roberto Delgado contributed to this report.)