On March 28, 2023, a tragic incident took place at the INM Migration Station in Ciudad Juarez. Forty men between the ages of 18 and 51 who were locked in a burning cell lost their lives. INM personnel were present during the fire, but instead of helping them, they abandoned them to their fate. According to local media reports, the head of the INM in that border city, Salvador Gonzalez Guerrero, was responsible for the immigration station where the tragedy occurred. He had been relieved of his post in May 2022, but was reinstated a month later. Gonzalez has not made any public statements yet.
In a letter addressed to the Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and the U.S. president, Joe Biden, Organizations, communities, and leaders from the U.S., Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras are calling for the closure of temporary shelters and migration stations in Mexico and a fundamental shift in migration policy that prioritizes human rights over containment and detention.
The Mexican and U.S. governments have tried to shift the blame to the migrants, but it is clear that their policies are responsible for the current migration crisis in the region. Several civil society organizations and human rights defenders have raised concerns about the dangerous conditions in these facilities for years, but their warnings have been ignored. In addition, some migrant shelters have reported that the new online asylum application system, CBP One, is being used to send people back to the Mexico-Guatemala border, perpetuating a strategy of confusion and contradiction in the regularization process that violates the human rights of migrants.
The letter states that the issue at hand goes beyond the recent fire and detention center in Ciudad Juárez. It “encompasses“ the migration policies of both Mexico and the United States toward a population forced to flee their homes and communities due to adverse conditions caused by governmental, environmental, and judicial failures. That’s why they are calling out all organizations, communities, and citizens to join them on April 7th to express their opposition to the immigration policies of both countries, U.S. and Mexico, and to demand respect for the rights of victims and their families, reparations for victims, an immediate end to detention and deportation practices, as well as the creation of a working group that includes citizens, civil society, human rights defenders, academics, and migrants to reshape regional migration policies.