The Ciudad Juárez fire – and other US-made circles of hell | Migration

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On March 27, 40 men were killed in a fire at a migrant detention center in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, just across the border from El Paso, Texas. The victims came from Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Venezuela.

Like so many thousands of asylum seekers from around the world, they were jailed in Mexico for the crime of aiming for a better life in the United States – which forces its southern neighbor to being a gateway and antagonist of migration.

I arrived in Ciudad Juárez 10 days after the fire. An altar with candles, flowers and pictures of the deceased was erected in front of the charred facade of the detention center. There I spoke to a young Venezuelan man who had lost a friend in the fire and had been camping out in the cold next to the shrine.

Pulling out his battered phone, he showed me a TikTok tribute to his friend – a man with a big smile and a small son in Venezuela – as well as a series of pictures of pigeons that had recently come to grace the altar. The images of the bird prompted a tender reflection from my interlocutor: “They are such beautiful creatures.”

According to the official statement, the Ciudad Juárez fire is primarily blamed on the individual prisoners who set the mattresses on fire in the hope of being freed – an act that seems to -careful, perhaps, if one does not think that these people were. already inhabiting the form of hell even before the addition of literal flames.

Having been briefly imprisoned in a Mexican immigration detention center – where many people are held in an indefinite limbo that amounts to psychological torture – I can attest to the form -land of despair, as well as the lack of proper food and water mentioned by many detainees of Ciudad Juárez.

At one point during my stay in the infamous Siglo XXI prison in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas—Juárez’s front end for the Mexican sphere of US border enforcement responsibility—there was no drop of drinking water available to the hundreds of us who were kept in the women’s section. It was only after a long negotiation with the police guarding the metal door of the holding pen that I was allowed to go through long enough to lift a 20-litre water container on my hip and cart it back inside.

Sometimes, however, despair can flare. And in Ciudad Juárez, the blame for the fire​​​​a detention center ultimately extends far beyond even the Mexican security guards and immigration authorities who spontaneously concluded it was a it would be better to let everyone die instead of opening the cell doors.

At the end of the day, it was a U.S.-made inferno, and not just because the U.S. is forcing Mexico to do its dirty anti-immigration work—an act that the Mexican seat of Andrés Manuel López Obrador was fully accepted even if he was pretending somehow. to be against the US government.

Washington has long specialized in inflicting diabolical torture on the rest of the world, whether in the form of bombing campaigns, economic catastrophe, support for right-wing regimes and death squads. – or any combination of the above, as should Central and South Americans. know

In fact, it is this very history that encourages a significant portion of migration to the US in the first place.

And although the fire of Ciudad Juárez is very obvious to bring out the underground, the whole business of seeking asylum in the US is very hellish.

I traveled to Ciudad Juárez on April 6 to reunite with a group of young Colombian and Venezuelan men whom I met in February in Panama when they came out of the jungle full-bodied to called the Darién Gap – commonly known in Spanish as el infierno verdeor “the green hell”.

We had been in constant contact via WhatsApp for over a month as they navigated the rest of Central America and Mexico, constantly being detained, robbed and robbed – all par for the course ‘ course in finding shelter. Nevertheless, they maintained grace and composure far beyond my own abilities, as can be seen in the number of WhatsApp messages asking me to stop leaving on their behalf because it was bad for my health.

We agreed to meet in Ciudad Juárez, which they reached after traveling for four days atop the so-called “death train” and which I reached after a two-hour flight from Mexico City – and so it was an honor to have a passport from the country my friends risked their lives to reach.

In reality, their own version of the “American dream” involved not so much owning a fancy car or house as working 24 hours a day, if possible, to to send money to their families back home.

Given the US history of wreaking havoc in both Colombia and Venezuela, it would seem that it would not be too much to ask.

Our Ciudad Juárez reunion included drinking lots of beer, dancing to Colombian music, and engaging in the kind of hugs that make you think it might be necessary – Really.

Although my friends had tried repeatedly to apply for legal entry into the US – through the mandatory CBP One app, which is largely intentionally abusive – the shortage their common currency and other factors led them to organize an “illegal” border crossing. El Paso on April 8.

That night, I got the news via WhatsApp: “Mom, they detained us” – the “them” actually being US immigration workers.

And as the US continues to create far more rounds of hell than Dante Alighieri could have ever imagined, at least there are still pigeons.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.

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