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The deaths of at least 39 migrants at a Mexican migrant facility just south of the U.S. border are being investigated as homicides and arrest warrants are expected Thursday.
At a press conference Wednesday, Mexico’s Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodriguez said prosecutors identified eight people suspected of being responsible for the deaths at the migrant center in the city of Ciudad Juarez, located across the Rio Grande less than eight miles south of El Paso, Texas.
Rodriguez said they include two Mexican federal agents, a Chihuahua state migration officer and five members of a private security firm, Reuters reported.
“There is obviously a grave crime,” Rodríguez reportedly said. “These were human lives. It’s unforgivable.”
Activists protest outside a migrant detention center in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, March 29, 2023, a day after dozens of migrants died in a fire at the center. (AP Photo/Christian Chavez)
MEXICAN IMMIGRATION GUARDS DIDN’T RELEASE MIGRANTS AS DEADLY FIRE RAGED, VIDEO APPEARS TO SHOW
Video circulated on social media showed one male detainee inside a cell kicking on bars as the flames worsened. Uniformed guards appeared to leave amid the blaze without helping detainees get out. Officials said part of the investigation examines whether a key was available to open the cell or if there was another way to break the lock.
“Who didn’t let these people out? Clearly, there is a serious crime,” Rodriguez said, adding the surveillance footage was part of the probe. “They weren’t capable of opening a gate.”
At the same event, Sara Irene Herrerias, leader of the human rights unit at Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office, said no arrests had been made yet but warrants were expected to come Wednesday evening and into Thursday, according to Reuters.
Herrerias said a probe was opened “for the crime of homicide and damage to property,” though other possible offenses are being weighed, The Guardian reported.
“None of the public servants or the private security personnel took any action to open the door for the migrants who were inside,” she told reporters.
Rodríguez said the migrants held at the facility had been rounded up off the streets earlier in the day as neighbors complained about panhandling, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Activists and migrants join a vigil for the victims of a fire at a migration detention center in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, March 29, 2023. (AP Photo/Christian Chavez)
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has promised there would be “no impunity” over the tragedy.
“There is no intention to cover up what happened, no intention to protect anyone,” López Obrador told reporters, according to the Times. “In our government we don’t permit violation of human rights or impunity.”
FIRE AT MEXICAN MIGRANT FACILITY THAT KILLED 38 STARTED IN DEPORTATION PROTEST, PRESIDENT SAYS
Secretary of Security and Citizen Protection Rosa Icela Rodriguez spoke of the deaths of 39 migrants in a fire during a press conference at the National Palace in Mexico City on March 29, 2023. (Claudio Cruz/AFP via Getty Images)
López Obrador said some of the migrants held at the center are believed to have started the fire themselves in protest over expected deportations. “They put mats at the door of the shelter and set them on fire as a protest, and did not imagine that it would cause this terrible tragedy,” he said Tuesday, according to Agence France-Presse.
Still, the Mexican president insisted those responsible for “causing this painful tragedy will be punished in conformity with the law.”
The victims were all men and mostly from Guatemala, but others who died were from Honduras, Venezuela, El Salvador, Colombia and Ecuador, according to Mexican authorities. The Times reported that the death toll increased from 28 to 39 Wednesday, while others remain hospitalized, including 17 in critical condition, nine listed as “delicate” and two as stable.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres demanded a “thorough investigation.”
Migrants walk into U.S. custody after crossing the border from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on March 29, 2023. A day earlier, dozens of migrants died in a fire at a migrant detention center in Ciudad Juarez. (AP Photo/Christian Chavez)
Tensions between authorities and migrants had apparently been running high in recent weeks in Ciudad Juarez, where shelters are full of people waiting for opportunities to cross into the U.S. or for the asylum process to play out, The Associated Press reported.
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The high level of frustration in Ciudad Juarez was evident earlier this month when hundreds of mostly Venezuelan migrants tried to force their way across one of the international bridges to El Paso, acting on false rumors that the United States would allow them to enter the country. U.S. authorities blocked their attempts.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Danielle Wallace is a reporter for Fox News Digital covering politics, crime, police and more. Story tips can be sent to [email protected] and on Twitter: @danimwallace.