Fifteen migrant women were freed from a detention center in Juarez, Mexico, as a deadly fire spread through it Monday but men remained locked in their cells — leaving at least 38 dead, according to local reports.
The revelation, reported by the Dallas Morning News, comes after video surfaced Tuesday showing Mexican immigration officials abandoning migrants as flames and smoke filled their detention cells.
In the footage, guards are seen leaving without acknowledging the men frantically trying to escape a locked cell.
The tragedy began Monday night when some migrants ignited stacked mattresses in a cell in protest — fearing they would be deported from Mexico to their countries of origin.
“It’s an injustice what Mexican immigration has done, and with all the hate in my heart I say, they are evil, evil,” said Abel Manuel Maldonado, whose brother was among the dead.
Orlando Jose Maldonado was confirmed to have perished in the fire when an official list was released Tuesday night.
“Lots of innocent people died in there, people with kids,” Maldonado added.
According to officials, 68 migrants from Central and South America were being held at the National Institute of Migration in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico — located less than one mile from El Paso, Texas.
The migrants were jailed, in most cases, for being a public nuisance over minor incidents such as panhandling on Juarez street corners while they waited in hope of getting a scheduled asylum appointment in El Paso so they could enter the US legally.
The dead and injured are from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador, the Mexican Attorney General’s Office said.
Twenty-eight further victims injured in the fire are described as being in critical or serious condition.
Mexican authorities in Ciudad Juárez have become increasingly hostile toward asylum seekers, stopping them from sleeping outside and from begging for money on the streets of the Mexican border town, according to El Diario de Juarez.
“We’re not taking anything from anyone — we prefer to beg for money than to steal,” Maldonado said. “They shouldn’t treat us like dogs.”
The fatal inferno comes after hundreds of mostly Venezuelan migrants tried to force their way across one of the international bridges to El Paso earlier this month from Ciudad Juarez, spurred by false rumors the US would allow them into the country.