April 16, 2023 written by Ciara Perez
Ciudad Juárez in northern Mexico “has long prided itself on absorbing waves of newcomers” and has served as a pitstop for migrants aiming to enter the United States. However, it has turned into a permanent hub for those who have been sent back by U.S. authorities or who are waiting to apply to enter the U.S. legally. Part of the reasoning for this influx of migrants to the city is due to a deal that the U.S. Biden administration has made with Mexico – the U.S. can expel Venezuelans, Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans to Mexico in exchange for creating legal pathways for them to pass into the United States.
Across the city, migrants can be found taking refuge in abandoned areas, with little provisions to survive. The locals of the city have grown frustrated with the growing number of migrants taking over, stating that many choose not to work even when work is available. “Migrants have tried to cross the border en masse, a move that has frustrated many residents who legally cross daily into El Paso to work.” The local government promised to crackdown on crowds of migrants rushing the U.S. border.
On March 27, a migrant center in Ciudad Juárez caught fire; authorities have determined that the fire was started by migrants who set fire to their mattresses in protest of their impending deportations. Witnesses have claimed that the guards were aware of the fire and yet they neglected to release the men, instead insisting that the women were removed from the building first. Investigations have revealed that the incident turned deadly because the guard holding the key to the locked cell of the migrants who died, was absent. It’s been confirmed that at least 39 people were killed and an additional 27 were hospitalized for their injuries. “Among the dead were 18 Guatemalans, six Hondurans, seven Salvadorans, seven Venezuelans and one Colombian.” The deaths of the migrants have added to already mounting tensions, as many of those killed were rounded up and arrested the same day as the fire. The arrests followed the orders of the mayor of Ciudad Juárez, Cruz Perez Cuellar, who recently vowed to take “a tougher approach to migrants whom he said, “could affect the city’s economy and thousands of Juárez and El Paso residents.””
Mayor Perez Cuellar has since “defended the city government’s treatment of migrants” as officials are being accused of xenophobia and racism. El Salvador, one of the origin countries of migrants killed in the fire, has demanded the resignation of Mexican immigration officials and the imprisonment of those responsible for the deaths. So far, five people, including private security personnel and agents from Mexico’s National Migration Institute, have been arrested. Authorities are investigating the incident as a homicide case.
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