Houston police rescue 30 illegal immigrants kidnapped by cartels

A general view shows a newly built section of the U.S.-Mexico border wall at Sunland Park, U.S.
A general view shows a newly built section of the U.S.-Mexico border wall at Sunland Park, U.S. | Reuters/Jose Luis Gonzalez

Police discovered 30 half-naked illegal immigrants held by cartels in a Houston house last week. The house’s captives included 29 men and one woman. Investigators said most of the people came from Cuba, Central America and Mexico.

On Thursday, one man wearing only underwear escaped the house and ran through the street, shouting that he had been kidnapped, according to Telemundo.

Cartels often take the clothes of people they traffic as a control technique, Pastor Robert Sanchez told The Christian Post. Sanchez leads El Tabernaculo Church near the border and often works to help illegal immigrants trafficked by the cartels.

“They might do that to make sure they don’t just walk out,” he said. “It is a very heartbreaking situation to hear about because honestly, I have not figured out what Christians can do about it yet.”

When cartels bring desperate migrants across the border, they isolate them from people who can help, Sanchez said. After one to two months of dangerous travel, cartels cram people into “safe houses” until they can cross the border. Once on the other side, the cartels jam them into American “safe houses.”

"The majority of these people said they were kept in Brownsville, Texas, for some time between two days and a week,” and that they were kidnapped and taken into the Houston house, said Police Commander Jonathon Halley to Telemundo.

Human traffickers brought the people over the border, Halley said.

Normally, cartels pack dozens of people into a house for a few days, feeding them fast food and canned goods, according to Sanchez. In the past, cartels have hidden people on rental properties that Sanchez owns until he discovered them and called the police. On some occasions, the pastor has paid ransoms to cartel members to release illegal immigrants to their relatives.

Women who try to illegally cross the border often pay worse prices, he noted. Cartel members often rape women who pay them to travel across the border. The one woman in the Houston group was probably treated as sexual currency.

“That’s very unfortunate (that only one woman was in the group), because that one woman’s luck is probably not good. She’s most likely paying the ticket for everyone else in that sense,” he said. “Most ladies I’ve talked to that have come in that manner will attest to that treatment. It’s just very heartbreaking.”

Police brought the rescued illegal immigrants to a school, where they received food and clothes. Some of the food and clothes they received came from the neighbors of the house they were imprisoned in.

Sanchez said that once illegal immigrants cross the American border with cartels, law enforcement can help them best. Before then, Mexican Christian leaders can do much to help desperate people and save them from the power of the cartels.

“It’s a very complicated issue in that it needs to be stopped south of the border,” he said. “I know of one ministry of a friend that has a shelter home just across the river in Mexico. He’s always full, with immigrants coming from other countries. Sometimes they’re lost or kicked out or somehow they’re abandoned by their coyotes.”

Often, border crossings increase based on political events in the United States, he said. When desperate people hear that American laws and politics might change in their favor, they leave their homes to risk the journey north. Often, their journeys end in a trip back to their own countries.

“There’s usually a political season or time,” he said. “At this time, right now right before elections, there was a big caravan coming out of Central America. When they arrived to Guatemala to get into Mexico, [the American and Mexican government] reached an agreement to not allow them to keep coming. The caravan never did reach the border.”

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