July 19, 2008

Human smuggling case raises concerns

Posted: July 19, 2008 11:06 AM CDT

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) - The discovery of more than two dozen illegal immigrants at a home in Hays County could indicate that human smugglers are getting bolder, according to law enforcement officials.

"We haven't seen a group this large in San Marcos, at least not to anyone's recent memory, " said San Marcos police chief Howard Williams. "Where we have that many people being smuggled in at one time in one location- this far north of the border."

After tips from family members who claim the smugglers were demanding money and threatening to kill their loved ones, state, federal, and local law enforcement agencies raided a home on Iris Street. They only had information about three possible victims, but they were shocked to find 26 illegal immigrants inside the mobile home. The home did not have air conditioning and several people, including a pregnant woman, were treated for dehydration.

"We didn't expect to find that many people," said Williams. "It's rather uncommon to see large stash houses north of the Valley."

Williams says smugglers move their human cargo from house to house until family members pay for their release. It is unusual to find so many illegal immigrants in one stash house so far north of the border.

"Understand that this goes on in the country every day. This is not an uncommon occurrence. It is uncommon for us to catch them and intervene in time before they've moved out," said Williams.

Four people arrested at the scene- two women and two men- face state kidnapping charges, but federal smuggling charges could be filed as early as next week. A total of 26 people removed from the home have been detained for immigration hearings.

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