EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Juarez police say they will be increasing their patrols of the Rio Grande due to the rising number of migrant stash houses found in the area in the past few weeks.
The latest find took place on Monday, when the Chihuahua state police were tipped off about a home in the middle of a field near the town of Porvenir. The house held 52 citizens of Guatemala and Ecuador in overcrowded and filthy conditions.
“They were packed into a few small rooms. They were threatened, they could not leave the house. They had them living in an inhumane state,” said Juarez state police Chief Ricardo Realivazquez. Photos of the scene provided to Border Report show dirty mattresses, clothes strewn about, a single 5-gallon water jug and a fan with a broken stand propped up on a traffic cone.
The migrants were taken to a government-run shelter. Mexican immigration authorities were notified of the find.
This is the second migrant stash house found in Juarez’s Lower Valley in the past week. The other one held 39 Central and South Americans. The municipal police has turned up half a dozen additional stash houses, mostly in the western portion of Juarez.
Police said a man was arrested in a nearby property where four stolen trucks and SUVs were reported. Police did not immediately confirm if the man was linked to the stash house.
“This activity is going on in many towns near the border … Caseta, Barreales, Porvenir, Guadalupe and Praxedis. What is happening there worries,” Realivazquez said. “The criminal groups provide very little food for them (but) they are charging from $7,000 to $15,000 (to get them to the U.S.). Depending on how much they pay, if they get deported, the smugglers will cross them again for free.”
U.S. and Mexican officials say cells of the Sinaloa cartel controls migrant smuggling activity in “El Valle de Juarez,” the portion of this Mexican border city across the river from the Texas towns of Socorro, Tornillo, Fabens and Fort Hancock.
The old Juarez cartel, represented by La Linea and groups it controls such as the Aztecas and La Empresa are known to be more active in the opposite side of the city – Anapra, Colonia Fronteriza, the neighborhoods abutting Mount Cristo Rey – as well as the desert across the border from Southern New Mexico.
“Organized criminal groups are making a lot of money off of (migrant smuggling) just with the fees,” Realivazquez said. “Also, they give them camouflage clothes to cross the desert. They give them backpacks where the smugglers often place drugs for (the migrants) to cross into the United States.”
The police chief said the cartels are using profits to buy guns and shore up their other cash cow: drug trafficking. The use of crystal meth is skyrocketing in the city and multi-million dollar amounts of hard drugs such as heroin, cocaine and fentanyl are “parked” in the city by the cartels, waiting for a chance to get them across the border.
Realivazquez said the state police is stepping up patrols and so is the municipal police. Newly arrived Mexican National Guard units are also starting to set up random highway checkpoints in areas such as the Juarez Valley and roads that lead to Juarez from the interior of Mexico.