Migrants at Mexican Detention Center Set a Fire That Kills at Least 40

AP Photo/Christian Chavez

There are two sides to the U.S.-Mexico border, and the Mexican side isn’t much better than the American side when it comes to illegal immigration problems.

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There have been riots and protests at several Mexican detention facilities in recent months as overcrowding and abuse have turned the immigration centers into powder kegs. On Monday, that keg exploded in a Ciudad Juarez detention center across the border from El Paso when inmates, informed they were being returned to their home countries, set fire to mattresses in protest. The fire killed at least 40 of the 68 men being held in the center.

Most of the dead were from Guatemala with others from Honduras, El Salvador, Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador.

Associated Press:

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 who have requested asylum there and are waiting out the process.

More than 30 migrant shelters and other advocacy organizations published an open letter March 9 that complained of a criminalization of migrants and asylum seekers in the city. It accused authorities of abusing migrants and using excessive force in rounding them up, including complaints that municipal police questioned people in the street about their immigration status without cause.

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Open borders advocates blamed Mexico for the tragedy.

The “extensive use of immigration detention leads to tragedies like this one,” claimed Felipe González Morales, the United Nations special rapporteur for human rights of migrants. What else is Mexico going to do with these people? The Mexican government doesn’t want tens of thousands of foreign nationals running around their country. How many are criminals? People like Mr. Morales have the luxury of urging the release of illegal immigrants because there’s no chance they have to live near them.

As Mexico has stepped up efforts to stem migration to the U.S. border under pressure from the American government, the agency has struggled with overcrowding in its facilities. The country’s immigration lockups have seen protests and riots from time to time.

Mostly Venezuelan migrants rioted inside an immigration center in Tijuana in October that had to be controlled by police and National Guard troops. In November, dozens of migrants rioted in Mexico’s largest detention center in the southern city of Tapachula near the border with Guatemala. No one died in either incident.

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Mexico is going to have to get used to the idea that migrants aren’t going to have the ability to simply show up at the American border and be processed and released into the interior with a slip of paper giving them a court date — for which 30% of them don’t bother to show up.

Related: Quietly, a Huge Potential Victory for Border Security

Asylum requests are going to be more orderly and fewer people will be granted them. The rest of the hemisphere is going to have to adjust to a new, more organized immigration system at the U.S. border.

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