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Hundreds imprisoned at Houston stash house

Police raided a 'stash house' where smugglers were holding more than 100 people hostage.

By Gabrielle Levy
Hundreds imprisoned at Houston stash house
A man looks across the U.S.- Mexican border from Tijuana, Mexico where the fence ends in the Pacific Ocean, March 22, 2005. An analysis of government data by the Pew Hispanic Center, a private research group in Washington DC, showed an estimated 10.3 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States last year, an increase of about 23 percent from 8.4 million in 2000 and will be a hot topic at the North American Summit, when U.S. President George W. Bush meets with Mexican President Vicente Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, March 23 in Waco, Texas at Bush’s Crawford ranch. (UPI Photo / Earl S. Cryer) | License Photo

Five people are being charged with running a "stash house" in Houston in which more than 100 hostages were being held as they waited for someone to buy their freedom.

Authorities raided a home Wednesday in which they found 110 people packed together and imprisoned by smugglers until relatives could be extorted for money. They arrested and charged five people with a variety of offenses, including hostage taking, unlawfully carrying weapons and conspiracy to harbor aliens.

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The house was discovered after a tipster told police he was being extorted by smugglers after a coyote failed to drop off a mother, her 7-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son, immigrant from Central America, on Tuesday in north Houston.

Police found "a sea of people coming at the officers as they entered" the house, piled onto each other's laps, hungry, thirsty and exhausted. The occupants told police they had been in the house from a few days to more than two weeks. Most were men, and there were children as young as 5 among the 17 juveniles.

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"The smell and conditions were just awful," said Houston Police Department spokesman John Cannon.

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"This case demonstrates the human tragedy that occurs as a result of our broken borders," said U.S. Rep. Mike McCaul, R-Texas, who represents part of Harris County and chairs the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee. "Last year over 100,000 people entered the United States illegally through Texas alone and the Department of Homeland Security has no plan to stop the flow."

Most of the people in the house were bussed to a detention center in north Houston, where they would be interview, fingerprinted, and medically examined. Many will likely be deported.

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[Houston Chronicle]

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