EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Newly released government videos show scenes from the inside a Juarez federal facility before and after a fire killed or mortally injured 40 migrants on the night of March 27, 2023.
The videos, as published on El Diario’s website and broadcast by KTSM, show a group of cuffed migrants walking calmly along a hall inside the National Migration Institute (INM) facility – on the Mexican side of the Stanton Street Bridge – on their way to a cell. The calm prevails most of the time inside the one large cell holding up to 68 adult males that day.
But at 8:26 p.m., a small crowd gathers near the door and some migrants begin pulling on the bars. A security guard in a white shirt sits in a chair while this unfolds. Some of the migrants begin lining up thin mattresses by the bars, obscuring what is going on inside the cell. The guard remains in place until a man dressed in civilian clothes arrives, then the two men exit the guard’s station.
Two uniformed INM agents, a male and a female, arrive and the male steps on a counter to talk to the migrants near the bars. The female takes out a pink cell phone and begins to talk to someone – a Juarez lawyer says to the regional INM director Salvador Gonzalez – and exits the guard station.
The male agent is still talking to the migrants when smoke can be seen over the top of the mattresses. The smoke begins to thicken and the male INM official continues to talk to the migrants. The female agent with the pink cell phone returns, talks to the male agent and, apparently, also to the migrants, then leaves. By then, flames can be seen on the other side of the mattresses and the smoke obscures most of the images on the camera. It is 8:31 p.m.
Smoke also begins pouring out of the ventilation shafts in the smaller cell where female migrants are kept locked in. The women start covering their faces and gathering their belongings before running for the exit, as someone has apparently opened that cell’s door. The smoke obscures the camera view there as well.
A minute later, the cameras shift to the entrance of the building where some civilians run inside and a few Mexican National Guard soldiers begin to gather. Everyone, including the female INM agent, the detained women and the civilians who came in, exit. Meantime, a man wearing a uniform and also a soldier bring in fire extinguishers from outside. The two, still carrying the extinguishers – which investigators have said did not work – walk back outside.
Several soldiers are seen running into the lobby but eventually walk out when the smoke thickens.
At least six people – INM agents, the Venezuelan migrant who allegedly started the fire and Regional Director Gonzalez – remain jailed on charges ranging from omission of duty to homicide.