Mexico’s immigration chief called to court over deadly fire

MEXICO CITY (AP) – Mexican prosecutors said Thursday the head of the country’s immigration agency is to make an initial appearance in court next week as part of their investigation of a fire at a detention center last month that killed 40 migrants.

National Immigration Institute chief Francisco Garduño is scheduled to appear April 21, the Attorney General’s Office said in a statement. At that point prosecutors will make their formal accusations and present evidence, the statement said.

Prosecutors had announced late Tuesday that Garduño would face unspecified criminal charges in the case.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has known Garduño for years and asked him to take the job in 2019 when then U.S. President Donald Trump was pressuring Mexico to reduce migration, said Wednesday that Garduño would stay in his job.

Federal prosecutors has said Garduño was remiss in not preventing the disaster in Ciudad Juarez despite earlier indications of problems at his agency’s detention centers. Prosecutors said government audits had found “a pattern of irresponsibility and repeated omissions” in the immigation institute.

The March 27 fire in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, allegedly started when a migrant set fire to a mattress in protest in a cell holding dozens of people. Smoke quickly filled the facility and no one let the migrants out.

Three Mexican immigration officials, a guard and a Venezuelan migrant accused of starting the blaze are already in custody facing homicide charges.

Prosecutors said Thursday that another unidentified official was scheduled to give a statement and that arrest orders had been issued for other immigration officials.

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