EDINBURG, Texas, (Reuters) – Two men face immigrant harboring charges after authorities found 115 undocumented people inside three small South Texas houses, some of whom did not have access to food or water for days, according to federal court records published today.
Police responded to an emergency call on Wednesday from an illegal immigrant inside one of the stash houses.
The home was bound with padlocks and chains from the outside, with bars covering the windows, said Oscar Trevino, a police spokesman in Edinburg, about 15 miles (24 km) from the U.S.-Mexico border. The caller said he was locked inside the house with about 50 other immigrants.
Upon officers’ arrival, several immigrants fled from two other nearby houses, according to a federal criminal complaint.
Officers turned the migrants over to Border Patrol agents. They told police they had not been given water or food for at least three days, and seven people were transported to a hospital for treatment for dehydration, Trevino said.
“It was crazy,” Trevino said. “There was no water, no light – nothing in there.”
U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter Ormsby ordered Vicente Ortiz Soto and Marcial Salas Gardunio, both 24-year-old Mexican citizens, to remain in custody prior to a detention hearing set for Monday.
One immigrant – a Honduran man – told an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Salas would greet each new immigrant by saying “Welcome to Hell,” and would give them little food while locked in the house, the complaint states.
Another immigrant said Salas drove the immigrants to the houses from the Rio Grande and had threatened to beat or kill them if they did not remain quiet, the complaint says.
Ortiz is accused of driving immigrants to the stash houses from the border and selling them snacks, the complaint says.
Salas told agents Ortiz paid him $500 a week to help smuggle, track and guard the immigrants.