A judge has ordered the immigration director of Mexico’s northern border state of Chihuahua to stand trial on charges of homicide, injuries and failure to perform his duties over a deadly fire at a migrant detention centre.
Juan José Chávez ordered the director, Salvador González, to be held in prison pending trial.
The judge said there was evidence González failed to do his duty to protect the migrants, 40 of whom died in the 27 March fire in Ciudad Juarez after one allegedly set fire to foam mattresses to protest against a supposed transfer.
“In the end, everything depends on the head [official],” Chávez said. “Not complying with standards does have its results.”
Five other officials of the country’s national immigration institute, a guard at the centre and the Venezuelan migrant accused of starting the blaze were already in custody facing homicide charges.
González is a retired Mexican navy rear admiral and the highest ranking official held over for trial in the case, though prosecutors have said they will press charges against the immigration agency’s top national official, Francisco Garduño, who is scheduled to make a court appearance 21 April.
Federal prosecutors have said Garduño was remiss in not preventing the disaster in Ciudad Juarez despite earlier indications of problems at his agency’s detention centres. Prosecutors said government audits had found “a pattern of irresponsibility and repeated omissions” in the immigration institute.
The fire in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, quickly filled the facility with smoke. No one let the migrants out.