Bishops lament ‘terrible tragedy’ that left at least 38 migrants dead in Mexico

migrants mexico fire Migrants wake up after spending the night outside the immigration detention center where at least 38 migrants died during a fire in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico, on March 29, 2023. | Credit: Photo by Guillermo Arias/AFP via Getty Images

Bishop José Guadalupe Torres of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, expressed in a March 28 statement his deepest condolences for the 38 migrants who died “due to the fire in the temporary residence of the National Institute of Migration here in our city.”

The coordinators of the bishops of Texas and Mexico — Eugenio Lira, the bishop of Matamoros, Mexico, and Gustavo García-Siller, archbishop of San Antonio, Texas — also “deeply regretted the death of the migrant brothers.”

A fire occurred in the lodging area of the temporary residence of Chihuahua. So far, 38 deaths and 29 injuries have been reported.

The Mexican Bishops’ Conference also lamented the tragedy and expressed its sorrow in a March 28 statement but pointed out that “these are not isolated cases” but rather “are closely related to what happened in 2020 when a Guatemalan national lost his life at the Tenosique Migration Station in Tabasco state, as well as what happened at the Piedras Negras Station in Coahuila state in 2022.”

As reported by the BBC, the Ciudad Juárez temporary residence is a “center used by the Mexican authorities to house migrants who attempt to cross illegally and who are candidates for deportation.”

Ciudad Juárez lies on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande across from El Paso, Texas.

In their statement, the Mexican bishops pointed out that “they’re not ‘shelters’” but migration stations that actually “operate as prisons and as punishment for irregular migration.”

“As a Church, we will always stand by the side of those who suffer the most, the excluded, the poor, and the people most in need,” the conference said in its statement.

The coordinators of the bishops of the Texas and Mexico border area said that “knowing that God loves his children, and that in him we are all brothers, we pray that he will receive the deceased and make them partakers of his eternal life; may he grant a speedy recovery to the injured, and may he give their families much strength.”

Torres, Lira, and García-Siller asked the corresponding authorities to clarify what happened and guarantee the safety of the other migrants.

“This Church, under the protection of holy Virgin Mary, will ensure the dignified accompaniment of all migrants as daughters and sons of the same God,” the Mexican Bishops’ Conference said.

Torres invited the faithful to participate in a special Mass that he will offer in the Ciudad Juárez cathedral “to pray for the eternal rest of those who have lost their lives and for the recovery of those in the hospitals of our city who are injured.”

The National Institute of Migration (INM) posted a statement on Twitter announcing that it has filed “a complaint with the corresponding authorities so that they investigate what happened and, where appropriate, proceed accordingly.”

The institute also requested the National Human Rights Commission “to intervene in legal proceedings and to safeguard foreigners.”

At the site were “68 adult males from Central and South America.”

“Of them, 29 other foreign migrants were injured by the fire and were transferred in critical-serious condition to four local hospitals for immediate care,” the INM statement continued.

Communication has been established with the consular authorities of the foreign nationals to facilitate the identification of the deceased.

More in Americas

The INM said that it will continue to report on the condition of those hospitalized and that it “strongly condemns the actions that led to this tragedy.”

The president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, reported in his daily press conference that “it had to do with a protest that they started after, we assume, that they found out that they were going to be deported.”

“And, as a protest, they put mattresses at the shelter doorway and set them on fire; and they didn’t imagine that this was going to cause this terrible mishap.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Our mission is the truth. Join us!

Your monthly donation will help our team continue reporting the truth, with fairness, integrity, and fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church.