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Immigration attorney says border conditions remain dangerous for migrants

This week, a fire at a Mexican detention center killed 39 migrants. Immigration attorney Laura Lunn says the situation makes people desperate.

DENVER, Colorado — On Monday, a fire at a Mexican detention facility in Ciudad Juárez left 39 people dead and others injured.

It comes only a few weeks after hundreds of migrants tried to rush into the United States, after a false rumor circulated that the border would be opened temporarily. 

"We are seeing a huge mass of people just kind of bottlenecked at the border, so at northern Mexico, trying to get into the United States," said Laura Lunn, director of Advocacy and Litigation at the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network. 

Trump-era policies made it more difficult for immigrants to enter the U.S. legally. Under the Biden Administration, most of those restrictions have stayed in place. Most notable is Title 42, which was implemented during the pandemic and will remain until May. 

The Biden Administration recently announced that it will put into place a restriction that migrants, if they have passed through three countries to get to the United States, must have applied for asylum in one of those countries to be eligible to apply for asylum in the U.S. 

"I think that this incident really highlights the fact that U.S. policy is creating these huge bottlenecks of people who are not able to cross the border and they have been put into wildly dangerous positions," Lunn said. 

The fire at the detention center, in her opinion, shows the desperation people have to continue into the United States. Reportedly, the detainees set mattresses on fire after learning they would be deported. 

"People are desperate. People have fled for their lives and are doing anything in their power to just try to seek refuge. And so being placed in a detention facility with pending deportation back to government regimes that they are fearful will take their lives makes people do wild things that seem like they are just completely outside of the scope of what a normal person would do," Lunn said. 

Lunn says that as someone who works with people in detention facilities, she believes detainees are treated as less than cattle. In the surveillance video of the fire from the detention facility, guards can be seen walking away while the cell is on fire. 

"Terrible. They make us go backwards, take our money. I'd say the [Darién] jungle is better. Everyone says there are dangers in the jungle, but hell is found in the Mexican Migration," said one Venezuelan migrant who attended a vigil in Mexico. 

"I think what remains the same is these oppressive policies that try to strip these people of their access to asylum," Lunn said. "It doesn’t prevent the flow of people trying to come here. It just puts them in a more dangerous situation." 

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