ICE agents and officers rescued 67 illegal immigrants, including six unaccompanied children, from “deplorable conditions” in a small trailer in New Mexico earlier this week.
The trailer served as a “stash house” where illegal immigrants are kept near the border, before they’re eventually farmed out to drivers who take them further inland to their eventual destinations.
Migrants told agents they had been in the 20-foot by 20-foot trailer for up to five days. There was no working bathroom, and the migrants were forced to take off their shoes and leave them outside before entering.
Tomas Miguel Mateo admitted to authorities that he was running the stash house, but claimed he was “forced” to do so.
He himself was an illegal immigrant, smuggled into the U.S. three months ago, and had been living in the trailer. He said he was ordered to watch the stash house by “them,” but wouldn’t say who he meant.
“As the deplorable conditions of this stash house demonstrate, transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) have no respect for human life,” said Jack P. Staton, special agent in charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations in El Paso.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents said they were tipped off about a stash house in the area near Dexter, New Mexico, late last year.
They were in the area on Monday and spotted a property with a mobile home and the trailer on it.
They spotted scattered clothing and “hundreds” of pairs of shoes for people of all ages from children to adults on the ground outside the trailer, leaving them suspicious.
Mr. Mateo refused to let them look in the trailer so they waited and when some of the migrants left the trailer 30 minutes later the ICE agents accosted them and asked them their status. Some fled, but others were interviewed and admitted they were in the country without authorization.
That apparently gave agents cause to enter the trailer.