EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Fourteen migrants who were allegedly being held against their will and threatened, were rescued from an exterior structure with poor ventilation as temperatures rose dangerously high Wednesday afternoon in the El Paso region.

The FBI El Paso Field Office’s Safe Streets and Violent Crime Task Force teamed up with the U.S. Border Patrol and the Texas Department of Public Safety to free the migrants. 

FBI officials said they’ve seen an increase in crimes in which migrants who have paid human smugglers are subsequently kidnapped for ransom and extortion.

“Since February of this year, the FBI along with our partners have rescued sixty-five victims from these violent and terrifying situations,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey R. Downey. “We call upon El Pasoans to report suspicious activities they see occurring in their neighborhoods. It just takes a concerned community to help law enforcement eradicate this violent crime from existing in our city and help protect a vulnerable population. I would like to thank USBP and TXDPS for their assistance in this ongoing investigation.”

According to the FBI, many undocumented migrants are kept in stash houses located across El Paso, and they warn the public that they can be found almost anywhere, including the middle of town or gated communities. In many cases, non-residential structures used to hide migrants can pose a direct threat to a person’s life in extreme heat and cold, the FBI said. 

These are some red flags to identify a stash house:

▪ If you don’t know who lives at the residence

▪ A lot of trash is constantly being placed outside homes; multiple water jugs or disposable plates lying around

▪ Different types of vehicles, especially vans and pickup trucks, will enter and exit the garage at different hours of the day or night (quite often they prefer to work in the night-time or early morning hours.)

▪ The vehicles arriving at the stash house will have different license plates on them, including Arizona, California, Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico. They may often display paper “buyer” or “dealer” tags. They may also use these license plates interchangeably with all the vehicles.

▪ Large amounts of food and water are taken to the house daily.

▪ If you are the landlord and somebody is hesitant to provide information or appears to use a false name, that might raise a red flag.

If you suspect that a residence is being used as a stash house, you can submit a tip online at: https://tips.fbi.gov. All tipsters may remain anonymous.

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