Mexico’s top migration official investigated for negligence in migrant detention center fire

By April 15, 2023

Mexico City, Mexico—Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office on Wednesday announced it is investigating Francisco Garduño Yáñez, head of the National Migration Institute (INM), following the deaths of 40 migrants in a fire at a detention center in northern Mexico last month. 

According to prosecutors, Garduño’s INM failed to monitor, protect and provide security to migrants in facilities under their charge, failing to comply with the obligations of their role. 

They said there was a pattern of “irresponsibility and omissions” that caused the deaths of 40 migrants and injuries to 25 more when a fire broke out at the Provisional Migration Center in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, on March 27.

Through a press release shared on April 11, the prosecution revealed that a similar case occurred on March 31, 2020, resulting in one person dead and 14 injured at another migrant center in Tabasco in southeastern Mexico. This, according to prosecutors, shows a “pattern of behavior” in which immigration authorities have omitted the security and safety measures meant to protect migrants in their custody.. 

Other officials of the agency are also being investigated for negligence, including Antonio Molina Díaz, Director of Migration Control and Verification at INM; retired Rear Admiral Salvador González Guerrero, a delegate for the institute, as well as public servants identified as Salvador “N,” Juan “N,” Cecilia “N,” and Eduardo “N.”

“For all these reasons, criminal proceedings have been brought against the directors of the INM, Francisco “N” and Antonio “N,” who incurred in alleged criminal conduct by failing to comply with their obligations to monitor, protect and provide security to the people and facilities under their charge, encouraging the crimes committed against migrants,” read the statement. 

However, Garduño has not been removed from his position as head of the INM and continues to serve inside the agency, as reported by Mexican authorities. 

At his morning press conference on April 12, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he did not intend to discharge Garduño from office, saying they would wait for the prosecution’s resolution. 

“We still do not know the extent of the accusation against him because several people are involved. And this morning, there was talk that some may be charged for omission, others for homicide. We still need more information from the prosecutor’s office about the investigation and that the judges are in charge of imparting justice. From the beginning, we maintained that there would not be impunity for anyone. These are no longer the times of the past,” said López Obrador. 
As of April 14, the prosecution said that five people are already in custody for their involvement in the fire, including three public officials from the INM, one from the private security company that worked in the detention facility, and Jeison Daniel Catarí, the Venezuelan migrant who allegedly started the fire.