Prosecutors say a “pattern” of irresponsibility and corruption led to a fire at the detention center that killed 40 people.
The head of Mexico’s immigration agency has been arraigned for failing to ensure security inside the country’s immigration detention centers following fires that killed 40 migrants and asylum seekers last month.
Francisco Garduno, the head of Mexico’s immigration institute, faced a court hearing Tuesday in which prosecutors presented evidence that he should close the facility that did not meet security requirements.
Prosecutors have previously said the case showed a “pattern of irresponsibility” at the immigration agency.
The deadly blaze has sharpened attention to what migrants and asylum seekers often encounter in countries such as Mexico, where critics say they are often mistreated and denied basic rights.
The March 27 fire drew international attention after a video circulated showing guards making no effort to free 68 men being held in a cell at the Ciudad Juarez detention center.
When the fire started, private security personnel asked officials to allow the man in custody to be released but were told not to, prosecutors said.
In addition to the 40 deaths, more than 20 people were injured in the fire. Many are from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Venezuela. Mexican authorities said migrants and asylum seekers set the fires in protest of their conditions and deportations.
Several migrants at the shelter also said they were told they could secure their release by paying $1,000, according to prosecutors.
In April, a Mexican judge ordered the arrest of three immigration officials, a private security guard and a Venezuelan immigrant in connection with the Juarez fire.
The highest-ranking official to stand trial so far is retired Rear Admiral Salvador Gonzalez, the agency’s representative in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. He was charged with homicide and negligence causing injury.
Garduno, who previously ran Mexico’s prison system, was appointed to run the country’s immigration bureau in 2019 as the country faced pressure from the United States to crack down on migrants and asylum seekers heading north.
Some advocates point to recent changes in immigration law — such as the U.S.’s Section 42 cross-border deportation policy and other deterrent measures — exacerbating the conditions that fueled the fire.
“Countries in the region, led by the United States, have enacted increasingly inhumane common immigration policies that make it nearly impossible to gain the right to seek asylum and force people to seek more dangerous routes, leaving them even more vulnerable,” rights group Amnesty International said. the organization said in a statement after the fire.