Over 100 people were rescued from a suspected stash house in Houston, Texas after authorities were tipped off to the case on Tuesday night, reports CNN. The 1500 square-foot, one-story structure was home to 94 men, 15 women – including children – most of whom were illegal immigrants being held forcibly, against their will.
The police was tipped off by a call made by a woman who said kidnappers had threatened her to pay ransom for her 24-year-old daughter along with her grandchildren, a 7-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy. Terrified after the kidnappers did not show up as promised where the exchange of money and people was scheduled to happen, she called up the police who decided to investigate the suspect property in South Harris County. They had no inkling they were about to chance upon the biggest catch of illegal immigrants in the area for the past 7 years.
The police have not revealed why they chose to home in on the said property. They did however reveal that they had set up surveillance in the area. The next morning, at around 10 am, they stopped two men leaving the home in a vehicle near a traffic stop and took them in to custody. In the meantime, realizing that they were busted, three more suspects tried to flee the home and were arrested.
It was after this that they decided to raid the house – expecting to find the woman and children the lady had tipped them off initially. What they did find however was something totally different. After one of the doors in the house was opened, the police encountered “a sea of people coming at the officers” as police spokesperson John Cannon described it. The people, who were obviously illegal immigrants were described to be sitting on each other’s laps and looked exhausted after spending a good amount of time in a tiny, cramped area.
One of the people rescued was a pregnant woman who was taken to a hospital for a medical checkup. Others residents of the house were found to appear healthy and only demanded water and food since they complained of being tired and hungry, according to Cannon. He added that they were provided food and water and were taken good care of.
The immigrants are believed to be from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico and are all now in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Department (ICE) and are likely to face deportation. According to ICE spokesperson Gregory Palemore, this latest rescue is the largest conducted in the area in the last seven years. “I’ve been here over five years and this is the largest number of people we’ve encountered at one residence,” Palmore said to SFGate.
Meanwhile, officers described the conditions inside the house to be awful. The immigrants were forced inside a tiny room and were forced to remove their shoes and clothes in what is seen as a move to prevent them from leaving the property. Most men were stripped down to their underwear. All of these 100 plus people had just one bathroom to use and the house smelled with what the police officers described as the “stench of unwashed humanity”. While most of the rescued said they were inside the house no more than four days, a woman has said that she had been forcibly living there since the past 15 days. Officers also found weapons inside the house, in an area where the five suspects were believed to have been put up.
It was back in 2012 that another such incident related to illegal immigrants was reported in the Houston area. Back then, it was of much smaller magnitude with the number of people being caught just 19.
Images Via Cody Duty, Houston Chronicle