By Blanca Carmona / La Verdad

CIUDAD JUAREZ – The commissioner of Mexico’s National Institute of Migration and the head of the institute’s Chihuahua office face charges for their alleged roles in the deadly fire at a migrant detention center in Juárez.

Commissioner Francisco Garduño Yáñez and Salvador González Guerrero were remiss in not doing more to prevent the fire despite documented problems at migrant detention centers under their purview – including the temporary holding cells in the Juárez facility, the Office of the Attorney General in Mexico said Tuesday. 

Though the AG’s office didn’t cite their full names, La Verdad is publishing the names because they are the top-level public officials.

Criminal charges in the March 27 fire that killed 40 migrants and injured 25 more were also brought against four other migration institute officials, including Antonio López Díaz, who served as the institute’s director of control and verification.

The AG reported that Garduño Yáñez and López Díaz allegedly engaged in criminal behavior by failing to comply with their obligation to monitor, protect and provide security to the people and facilities under their charge, and for promoting the crimes committed against migrants.

The Prosecutor’s Office did not disclose whether the officials are in custody.

Federal prosecutors said evidence in the case showed a “pattern of irresponsibility” both within the immigration institute and the private security company, Grupo de Seguridad Privada CAMSA. They pointed to a March 2020 fire at a migrant detention center in Tenosique, Tabasco, where one person died and 14 were injured.

The charred walls and doors at the Mexican National Institute of Migration in Juárez where 39 migrants were killed in a Monday fire brought some passersby to tears. (Cindy Ramirez / El Paso Matters)

Five low-level officials, guards and a Venezuelan migrant, have already been charged with homicide in the deadly fire. The Venezuelan man, 28-year-old Jeison Daniel Catarí Rivas, is accused of starting the fire inside the detention center cell.

Authorities last week began returning the bodies of the men who died in the fire, with the first arriving in Bogotá, Colombia on Friday. Julián David Villamil Arévalo, 22, was the only person from Colombia among those listed as having died in the fire. So far, the bodies of 31 migrants have been sent to their home countries, authorities said Tuesday.

This story was produced as part of the Puente News Collaborative, a binational partnership of news organizations in Ciudad Juárez and El Paso.