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Bodies of those who died during the fire inside a Mexican detention facility were laid in a parking lot outside the offices of the National Migration Institute near the U.S.-Mexico border in Ciudad Juárez on March 27, 2023. The fire killed 40 immigrants and injured more than two dozen.

How shifting U.S. policies led to one of the deadliest incidents involving immigrants in Mexico’s history

A year ago, 40 men died in a detention center fire in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. An examination by The Texas Tribune and ProPublica shows that it was the foreseeable result of landmark shifts in U.S. border policies.

By Perla Trevizo, The Texas Tribune and ProPublica

How we got here

Immigrants, many from Venezuela, sleep by the entrance of an international bridge that separates Ciudad Juárez from El Paso, Texas, as local residents walk by. Some of them were waiting in the border city while trying to get an appointment to enter the U.S. using the government app CBP One.
President Joe Biden speaks with Border Patrol agents in El Paso on Jan. 8, 2023. The visit followed an announcement by the administration to expand the use of Title 42 to include Cubans, Nicaraguans and Haitians.
Strips of paper bearing the names of the 40 men killed in the fire are tied with marigolds to the fence surrounding the immigration detention center where they died.

A city on edge

Stefan Arango, who survived the fatal fire, is among nearly eight million Venezuelans who have fled an authoritarian government and a collapsed economy in the past decade.
Migrants wait in Ciudad Juárez alongside a barbed-wire fence that separates the city from El Paso, Texas. Frustrated with the low numbers of people who can get appointments through the CBP One app, some of those stranded in border cities decide not to wait and instead turn themselves in to Border Patrol agents.
Alex Santos Jiménez, 20, from Honduras, shows a photo of his father, Alis Santos López, who was detained by Mexican immigration officials at the bus station in Ciudad Juárez and taken to the immigration detention center two days before the deadly fire.

Uncertain future

The names of the migrants killed in the 2023 fire, including Alis Santos López, are written on mylar blankets on the fence surrounding the detention center that burned to mark the one-year anniversary of the incident.
Mexican immigration agent Rodolfo Collazo’s wife, María Trujillo, left, and his daughter Tania Collazo say they try to stay positive, but the longer he’s behind bars, the harder it is to remain hopeful.
Second image: A photo of Rodolfo Collazo sits atop a table at their home in Ciudad Juárez.
Arango looks back to Mexico one last time before he crosses into the United States. Arango, along with his wife and others who survived the fire, were granted permission to enter the United States for humanitarian reasons.
Arango places his hands on a Bible he traveled with through seven countries and the Darién Gap, a stretch of jungle between Panama and Colombia. As the smoke and flames spread through the cell inside the detention center, Arango said, he fell to the floor and prayed.
Arango and his wife, Patricia Moyano, from Bolivia, send voice messages to friends while waiting inside the Greyhound bus terminal in El Paso before traveling to Austin.
Delmis Jiménez stands on top of the international bridge that divides Ciudad Juárez and El Paso as her family waits for U.S. customs officers to allow them into the United States. Her husband died attempting to reach the U.S. eight months earlier.

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