A small house crammed with well over 100 people presumed to be illegal immigrants of the U.S. was discovered just outside of Houston on Wednesday, a police spokesman said.
The search for a 24-year old woman and her two children, a 7-year old girl and a 5-year old boy reported missing by their family, has reportedly turned into a whole lot more than a missing persons case. Police entered a home looking for them and uncovered a suspected stash house. There were many people dressed only in undergarments found in the home that authorities say appears to be part of a human smuggling operation. The conditions of the home were filthy, as trash bags and old clothing lay everywhere. The missing mom and her two children were reported missing on Tuesday, because a man failed to meet them as planned at an undisclosed location on the city’s north side, said John Cannon, a spokesman for the Houston Police Department per ABC News.
Upon entering the home, the police found “a large, large group of people, some sitting on top of one another, very confided spaces,” Cannon said. “They yell out the woman’s name to see if she is in there, and she emerges with the two children. They’re OK.”
Cannon reported that the house is a single family home located in southern Harris County and is approximately 1,500 square-feet. When police initially entered the home, they only found a single mattress on the floor along with a refrigerator in an exterior room. The police did not immediately locate the large group until they went further into the house where they found 94 men dressed only in undergarments and without shoes, 15 women along with the missing woman and her two children. They were all lying amongst extreme filth in several small rooms with only one bathroom available and no hot water.
Many of the women reportedly had been there as many as three to four days with one women telling authorities she had been at the location for 15 days. All of them said they were starving, dehydrated and exhausted.
“It was just filth, very squalid-like conditions inside. Trash bags with clothing piled as high as you can see,” Cannon said. “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.”
Five men have reportedly been arrested.
The investigation has been turned over to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Houston Police said. ICE spokesman, Greg Palmore, said it has been five years since officials uncovered a house in the Houston area with this many people inside. In 2012, a house with 86 people was discovered, he said.
Palmore said that ICE removed the people from the home and have taken them into custody where they will be questioned and fed. Most of the people were from Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador, he reported. Two of the people were taken to the hospital, but it was unclear why. One was a pregnant women and the other a male. According to Palmore, it is too early in the investigation to to assume that this was part of a human trafficking operation, however, he did say it appeared that way.
Because of where Houston is situated, being just seven hours from the Mexican border, it makes it a popular route for immigrants, Palimore explained.
“Houston is significant for the highway corridors that make up Houston, I-45 and I-10. With those two traffic corridors, you can pan out anywhere in the United States,” Palmore said. “And it’s very easy to assimilate into the communities here.”
Over 100 People Discovered in Suspected Stash House