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Arrest warrants granted in deadly fire inside Mexico migrant center

The federal prosecutor leading the investigation said 5 of the 6 people subject to the warrants are being indicted and arraigned on charges of “intentional homicide.”
A migrant girl lights a candle during a vigil for the victims of a fire at an immigration detention center that killed at least 40 people, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on March 28, 2023.
A migrant girl lights a candle Tuesday at a vigil for the victims of a fire at an immigration detention center in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.Fernando Llano / AP

Six arrest warrants have been issued in connection with a deadly fire at a government-run migrant detention center in Mexico that killed 39 men and injured 28 others this week, officials said Thursday evening.

The warrants were issued for three officials of the National Migration Institute, the agency running the detention center that burned down, two security guards working with a private company the agency contracted to work at the center and the person believed to have started the fire, Sara Irene Herrerías, an attorney with the prosecutor general’s office, which is leading the investigation, said at a news conference.

Herrerías said five of them have been arrested and are being indicted and arraigned on charges of “intentional homicide."

Public Safety Secretary Rosa Icela Rodríguez, who joined Herrerías at the news conference, said her office is assisting the investigation by the country’s prosecutor general.

The security guards who were in the detention center at the time of the fire work for a private company Rodríguez identified as Grupo de Seguridad Privada Camsa. The National Migration Institute hired the company in 2019 to provide 503 security officers across facilities in 23 Mexican states, Rodríguez said. But it had a security staff of fewer than 15 people, she added. It also lacked permits for its staffers to carry firearms.

Rodríguez said a request to revoke the company's government contract has been filed. The company will also be fined, she said, without disclosing the amount.

Mexico's federal protective service is set to take over the company's responsibility in Ciudad Juárez, Rodríguez said.

The fire, which began Monday night in the Estancia Provisional de Ciudad Juárez, across from El Paso, Texas, is one of the deadliest migrant tragedies near the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years.

Herrerías said Wednesday that migrants at the center had bunched up some small mattresses, protesting “about some inconveniences.” Some eyewitnesses said a small group of migrants in the center were upset about possible deportations and set the mattresses on fire, she said.

A 30-second video from inside the center posted on Facebook by Equipo De Rescate Cd Juárez, a local group that assists in emergency events, shows the fire as someone behind bars starts kicking the padlock in an attempt to open it. Two guards stand in front of the locked door, pacing back and forth, until black smoke covers the entire room.

Herrerías said Wednesday the investigation shows that immigration and security officers at the center did not take “any action to open the door to the migrants who were already inside with the fire."

A complaint was also filed with investigators for the attorney general’s office accusing the state’s top immigration official of knowing about the fire but ordering that the migrants not be released.

Information about the detention center’s emergency protocols has been requested as part of the investigation, Rodríguez said. Authorities are also investigating the conditions in which the migrants had been detained, she added.