EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – In the past year, U.S. Border Patrol agents in the El Paso Sector have arrested smugglers using rental properties as stash houses and often find these people damaging properties, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
CBP says Border Patrol agents have encountered numerous short-term rental properties being exploited by transnational criminal organizations.
On Feb. 13, for example, agents assigned to the Ysleta Anti-Smuggling Unit were advised of a possible stash house near George Dieter Drive and Montana Avenue.
When agents arrived at the property, they observed a U-Haul being utilized to transport individuals. Agents were subsequently able to locate 14 migrants from Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador and Ecuador including two underage accompanied children from Guatemala, according to CBP.
In addition, agents seized hard narcotics that were being used inside the property.
CBP says the smugglers left thousands of dollars worth of damage to the property. Furniture items used in the rental home had to be thrown away by the property owners and parts of the house were destroyed. Additionally, the property had to be unlisted for three months for repairs.
On Wednesday, the Border Patrol posted on X an interview with the owner of a rental property that was used as a stash house in El Paso. She said the smugglers had changed the locks.
“At the beginning of this year in January, we were taken advantage of in one of our properties,” says the property owner, identified as Jade. “We were informed by some neighbors that our house was surrounded by Border Patrol. We immediately showed up and tried to cooperate in any way we could. We handed over the keys but the locks were changed.
Jade said that after border agents removed migrant children and adults from the house, they found tens of thousands of dollars in damage but were only able to recover a small amount.
Smugglers continue to rent properties from long-distance owners under false pretenses and then use the property for illegal smuggling schemes including bookings for individual rooms, according to CBP.
In Fiscal Year 2023, El Paso Sector human smuggling interdiction teams uncovered 281 stash houses in the region with over than 3,655 migrants.
In Fiscal Year 2024 to date, which started Oct. 1, agents have already located 44 stash houses with 471 migrants. Oftentimes, agents find these stash houses with migrants living in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, according to CBP.
“The citizens in our local El Paso community provide an important partnership to help us safeguard our city. We encourage anyone with information to report suspicious activity to our office. That one phone call could help save many lives,” said Anthony “Scott” Good, El Paso Sector Chief Patrol Agent. “If you see something, say something and call 1-800-XSECTOR.”
CBP welcomes assistance from the community. Citizens are encouraged to report suspicious activity to the U.S. Border Patrol while remaining anonymous by calling 1-800-635-2509.
Border Report‘s Fernie Ortiz contributed to this article.