McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Although apprehension of undocumented migrants is down in the Rio Grande Valley overall due to the pandemic, stash houses are on the rise in South Texas and mostly single, undocumented adults are being found in these fetid facilities, Border Patrol officials told Border Report.
There were about 1,100 migrants apprehended in stash houses in fiscal year 2020, which just ended on Sept. 30, in the Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley Sector. And, this past month there have been hundreds more arrested at stash houses by U.S. Border Patrol and local law enforcement agents. Altogether, 140 stash houses were dismantled in fiscal year 2020, RGV Sector Chief Patrol Agent Brian Hastings told Border Report.
“They were often housed in terrible conditions without adequate hygiene products and in close proximity of one another while lacking personal protective equipment,” Hastings said.
On Tuesday, four stash houses were dismantled by a collaboration of local law enforcement and Border Patrol agents, resulting in the arrests of 111 undocumented migrants, Border Patrol officials reported.
At a stash house in the town of Donna, Texas, several migrants tried to escape through windows as agents bore down on the facility, agents said. They arrested 61 migrants at that site.
That same day, a few miles away at a mobile home in Pharr, Texas, as Border Patrol agents knocked on the front door, undocumented migrants tried to escape from a back door, Border Patrol officials said. Thirteen migrants from Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico were arrested at that trailor.
That same afternoon an additional seven undocumented migrants were arrested at a stash house in Donna, and 30 in a house in the town of Edinburg, agents said.
The above photos from U.S. Border Patrol show recent arrests of undocumented migrants at stash houses in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas (CBP Photos)
Hastings said regardless of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions, undocumented migrants are continuing to “carelessly” try to illegally cross the southern border, and he says that puts border agents and border communities at risk.
“The careless behavior of human smugglers pose a significant risk to both the people they smuggle and the members of our communities. Every smuggled person makes numerous close contacts with individuals throughout their journey such as foot guides, vehicle drivers, stash house operators, etc. who all interact with their own family members and the public,” Hastings said.
Overall, migrant apprehensions this past fiscal year have been down due to the pandemic and border restrictions.
“The people of the Rio Grande Valley work hard to mitigate COVID-19 infections but the criminal organizations operating in South Texas threaten to erase the progress made and will hinder our community from recovering from this virus,” he said.
Hidalgo County has had the second-most fatalities from coronavirus of any of the 254 Texas counties, with 1,884 deaths and 33,788 cases, according to county officials.
On Wednesday, a charter bus heading south from Wisconsin was stopped by McAllen health officials after one passenger died and another tested positive for COVID-19. The remaining travelers were isolated as a precaution to stop the spread of the virus in a community suffering from spiraling rates and a lack of hospitals and medical equipment and personnel.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.