Ciudad Juárez Fire & Other Made-in-USA Hells


The recent fire at a migrant detention center in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, which claimed the lives of 40 men from various countries, including Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Venezuela, highlights the plight of refugees seeking a better life in the United States. The US government forces Mexico to act as a deputy gatekeeper and migrant antagonist, imprisoning thousands of refugees who aspire to a better life. The official narrative blames the detainees for setting fire to their mattresses, but this ignores the fact that they were already living in a form of hell before the fire broke out.

The author of this article visited Ciudad Juárez 10 days after the fire and spoke with a young Venezuelan man who had lost a friend in the blaze. He showed the author a TikTok tribute to his friend and a series of photos of a pigeon who had come to pay respects at the altar. The images of the bird prompted a tender reflection from the young man: “They are such delicate creatures.”

The blame for the detention center fire ultimately extends far beyond even the security guards and Mexican immigration authorities who decided that it was preferable to let everyone die instead of opening the cell doors. It was a made-in-USA inferno because the US obligates Mexico to perform its anti-migration dirty work. Washington has a long history of inflicting diabolical torment on the rest of the world, whether in the form of bombing campaigns, economic disaster, support for right-wing regimes and death squads – or any combination of the above.

The whole business of seeking asylum in the US is pretty hellish. The author traveled to Ciudad Juárez to reunite with a group of young Colombian and Venezuelan men he had met in Panama when they emerged from the Darién Gap. They remained in constant touch via WhatsApp as they navigated Central America and Mexico, being continuously detained, extorted, and robbed. They agreed to meet in Ciudad Juárez, where they reached after traveling for four days atop the so-called “train of death.”

Their own version of the “American dream” entailed working 24 hours a day, if possible, in order to send money to their families back home. Given the US track record of wreaking havoc in both Colombia and Venezuela, it would seem not too much to ask. Although the author’s friends had repeatedly attempted to apply for legal entry to the US, their general lack of funds and other factors compelled them to stage an “illegal” border crossing to El Paso on April 8. That night, the author received the news via WhatsApp: “Mom, they detained us” – the “they” of course being US immigration personnel.

As the US continues creating far more circles of hell than Dante Alighieri could ever have imagined, at least there are still pigeons. The author’s friends’ story is just one of many that highlight the desperate situation that refugees face in their search for a better life. The blame for their plight lies not only with the Mexican authorities but also with the US government, which forces Mexico to act as its deputy gatekeeper and migrant antagonist.