Earlier this week over 100 illegal immigrants, including women and children, were found crammed into a human smuggling stash house in Houston, Texas. With a square footage of less than 1,500, a single malfunctioning toilet and no hot water for washing, the conditions inside the house were beyond foul. Some of the people had been locked inside for as much as two weeks, while others had been there for just a few days. However, when authorities opened the door the mass of unwashed and untended humanity that they faced was appalling. According to John Cannon of the Houston Police Department, the conditions and smell were “just awful.”
The police were alerted to the potential human smuggling operation by a phone tip from the family of a young woman who were expecting her arrival in the country and, when she did not show up, they feared the worst. The family was waiting for the woman, her seven-year-old daughter and son aged five who were supposed to be delivered from Central America early in the week by a “coyote” or human smuggler.
Although police have not revealed how they located the stash house of illegal immigrants, their initial surveillance tactics netted two men leaving the house in a vehicle that contained weapons and smuggling evidence. Later, three more suspects who attempted to flee the premises were apprehended.
The police expected to find the woman and her children inside the house but instead the raid exposed the largest cache of smuggled illegals in the Houston region in over seven years. The coyote’s human cargo, ranging in age from five to 47, were locked in the dark and foully squalid house, the windows were boarded over, the door marked “Keep Out” and their freedom was dependent upon payment from their relatives.
With so little room, people were literally crammed wall to wall and piled upon each other’s laps. According to Cannon, people were “stacked” upon each other in dirty, filthy conditions and there were bags of trash and clothes strewn everywhere. In addition, the people did not have adequate food and water, the men had been stripped to their underwear and their shoes had been taken away ostensibly to make escape more difficult. Houston police also discovered that there were 500 chickens on the property and there is suspicion that they were to be used in an illegal cock-fighting operation.
Homeland Security spokesman Greg Palmore says the size of the raid highlights Houston’s role as a “hub” for human smugglers intent on bringing people into Texas. In addition, the area is serving as a gateway for illegal immigrants into the rest of the United States. Many of the illegal immigrants discovered in the raid had traveled as much as 2,000 miles starting their journey in Central America only to end up trapped in a stash house, busted by Houston police and then bussed to detention centers where they likely will face deportation.
U.S. Representative Mike McCaul (R-Texas) serves as the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. McCaul says that the Houston case of so many illegals smuggled in by coyotes and crammed into the foul conditions of the human stash house aptly demonstrates the “human tragedy” that occurs as a consequence of the broken borders in the United States. McCaul faults the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for not having a plan in place to stop illegal immigration and cites the fact that in Texas alone, over 100,000 people crossed the border illegally in 2013. While the element of human tragedy in this and other cases of human smuggling is appalling, the criminal nature of coyotes and the risks to national security are fundamentally important to consider and as McCaul points out, the Houston case illustrates how DHS is failing in its function to provide security to the homeland.
By Alana Marie Burke
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