July 17, 2008

Authorities rescue aliens; arrest 4 suspected smugglers

By Anita Miller
News Editor

San Marcos — Law officers from eight jurisdictions swarmed a San Marcos mobile home Wednesday night, arresting four people for kidnapping and rescuing 26 illegal aliens from a sweltering trailer.

Those arrested, Alejandro Guzman Ortega Alejandro, Julio Selgado Ortega, Rosalinda Alvarez Trevino and Maria Garcia Luz, are in custody at the Hays County Law Enforcement Center.

The illegal aliens, 18 men and 8 women, including one pregnant woman, are in custody of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement at an undisclosed site.

San Marcos Police Chief Howard Williams said the men were dressed only in underwear, apparently to keep them from running away. The women were wearing T-shirts and shorts.

Nine of the aliens were taken to Central Texas Medical Center from the scene to be treated for open wounds and dehydration. The pregnant woman was later taken to the hospital from police headquarters after she began having abdominal pains.

Williams said the raid on the home at 518 Iris Street in the San Marcos Regency Mobile Home Park off Post Road went down around 8 p.m. Wednesday, within two hours after authorities were able to pinpoint the exact trailer involved.

“We were concerned about the lives and safety of those inside,” Williams said.

He said the investigation began after San Marcos and Austin police received different calls from family members saying the smugglers were demanding money or they would kill the people they were holding.

Four more aliens who had been allowed to leave in an SUV were followed from the mobile home and taken into custody in Staples in Guadalupe County.

Some suspected smugglers tried to flee on foot and one, a short, thin Hispanic male, got away. Williams said no one got a good enough look at him to even give a description.

He also said he did not know if the man should be considered dangerous. One handgun was found inside the trailer but Williams did not know if it was loaded.

He said at lest one of the four in custody is believed to be related, “family,” of at lest one person involved in an incident on Hopkins Street two months ago. At that time, he said, a family member of an illegal alien being held was bringing money to a smuggler when something went wrong and the smuggler puled out a gun and fired several shots.

No one was hit and the three arrested then for aggravated robbery are still in jail.

ICE special agent Vincent Figlio said the number of illegal aliens found in the raid is unusual for this area but “not uncommon in South Texas.”

Both Figlio and Williams said there are still many people involved that they need to interview, noting that some are apprehensive or fearful of talking with authorities.

As for what will happen to those in ICE custody, Figlio said “some may be witnesses, some may be persecuted, some may be victims who will be returned to their country of origin.”

Hays Sheriff Allen Bridges said he did not have a head count of all the officers involved but it was “quite a few.”

Participating agencies included San Marcos and Austin police, the Hays and Travis county sheriff’s offices, the FBI, U.S. Marshal’s Service and ICE. San Antonio police supplied a helicopter.

All the agencies will be working together to determine what other charges may be appropriate, on both the state and federal level.

Williams said it’s the biggest case of its type he’s seen in the five years he’s headed up the SMPD.

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