Mexican prosecutors are treating a deadly fire at a migrant facility across the border from El Paso, Texas, on Monday as a possible homicide case. The fire at the federally operated detention center in Ciudad Juarez killed at least 39 men from Central and South America and injured dozens more, according to reports. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Tuesday that it was started by migrants who learned they'd be deported, though reports suggest migrants had also complained of poor conditions and a lack of drinking water, the BBC reports. Surveillance video shows people in uniform walking past the locked door of a cell where mattresses had been set alight, even as the room fills with smoke.
Two federal agents, a state migration officer, and five members of a private security firm are considered suspects, reports Reuters, adding arrest warrants are expected Thursday. "None of the public servants, nor the private security guards, took any action to open the door for the migrants who were inside where the fire was," Sara Irene Herrerias Guerra, a federal human rights prosecutor, said Wednesday, per the New York Times. She said an investigation into "the crime of homicide and damage to property" had been opened, though other charges would also be considered, per Al Jazeera. The Times reports authorities "might also investigate one migrant suspected of starting the fire."
But Security Secretary Rosa Icela Rodriguez placed the blame on the "public servants and guards," adding, per Al Jazeera: "They weren't capable of opening a gate. ... It looks like these guards didn't have any training." Formerly a transit point for migrants seeking a new life in the US, Ciudad Juarez has become a base for those who've been sent back to Mexico by US authorities or are waiting for a chance at legal entry, the Times reports. Martha Barcena, former Mexican ambassador to the US, tells the outlet that the blaze should show that existing immigration measures "are not working" and in fact "are causing terrible tragedies." (Read more US-Mexico border stories.)