U.S. immigration authorities on Thursday interviewed more than 100 foreign nationals found imprisoned in a dilapidated Houston-area home.
Police found adults and children on Wednesday in a house so crowded that they were sitting in each other’s laps, The Houston Chronicle reported. They had exactly one bathroom. They didn’t have hot water. They didn’t have shoes — smugglers had stolen them to prevent escape.
The 115 people, from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, were living in squalor in a suspected south Harris County “stash house,” a place where smugglers take people they’ve brought into the U.S. illegally, holding them until relatives pay a ransom, according to news reports. Their windows were boarded with plywood. Their doors were locked from the outside. Police said they believe the surrounding property, filled with pigs, geese and chickens, was likely used in illegal cockfighting.
John Cannon, a spokesman for the Houston Police Department told The Associated Press:
“It was just filth, very squalid-like conditions inside. Trash bags with clothing piled as high as you can see. … They were very surprised at the numbers of people inside. Some were just sitting on top of one another because there was just no room.”
The group was discovered after a tipster told police a scheduled coyote drop of a mother and her two young children didn’t happen as planned on Tuesday night. The next day, police arrested five men for a variety of offenses, including hostage taking, weapons charges and conspiracy to harbor illegal immigrants, ICE Special Agent Brian Moskowitz said on Thursday.