39 Dead, 29 Seriously Injured, After Migrants Fearing Deportation Set Fire Near El Paso, Texas

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Ciudad Juárez municipal police and National Guard evacuate a camp for Venezuelan migrants installed on the border between Mexico and the United States. Juarez, Mexico, File photo: David Peinado Romero, Shutter Stock, licensed.

EL PASO, TX – Illegal migrants in Mexico right near the U.S. border who were fearing that they would be deported set a huge fire near El Paso, Texas on Monday evening that ultimately killed 39 people, according to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. 

The migrants in question had stacked mattresses at the entrance of the Lerdo station of the National Institute of Migration where they were being detained and set them ablaze after discovering they were about to be deported back to the countries they originally came from; the deadly fire was originally meant to be a means of protest, Obrador said. 

“This had to do with a protest that they started,” he said. “We assume that they found out that they were going to be deported, mobilized and as a protest at the door of the shelter they put up mattresses and set them on fire and they did not imagine that this was going to cause this terrible disgrace.” 

In addition to the 39 that were killed, another 29 were seriously injured, as per the El Paso Times. 

Mexican authorities have reportedly become increasingly hostile to migrants and asylum seekers seeking to illegally cross the border from Mexico and into the United States; residents adjacent to the border have repeatedly complained that the migrants often loiter in the streets and present a serious public nuisance.

On Monday, police arrested 68 Venezuelan and Central American migrants in Ciudad Juarez – the city just feet away from the international boundary and directly across the border from El Paso – who will be either taken to be detained in Mexico City or immediately deported from the country altogether. 

As of Tuesday morning, officials were still working to identify the deceased who perished in the fire, with survivors having been transported to local area hospitals for treatment. 

As the migrants had set the fire while they were detained in the facility, many were unable to escape and perished either from burns or smoke inhalation. 

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