A human trafficker is holding a teenager hostage after her mother paid to have her transported to the United States illegally, investigators said.
Houston Police said the girl's mother, who also came into the country illegally from Nicaragua, told them that her 16-year-old daughter was supposed to be dropped off in Houston on Tuesday.
The San Antonio woman traveled to Houston to pick up her daughter, whom she had not seen in almost two years, with the hope of helping her daughter start a new life in the U.S.
"In Nicaragua, they're all bad with all people. There's no respect for anyone, only respect for those that have money. But none for those without. They treat them like nothing," the mother said.
The mother did not give her name, but agreed to an on-camera interview.
The mother told Local 2 that her daughter's journey began two months ago. She said she sent $5,000 to smugglers, known as coyotes, to bring her daughter through Mexico and into Texas. However, once the coyotes got to Houston, they forced the mother to wire $1,700 more. When she arrived at the Fiesta Supermarket, the smugglers told her she wouldn't see her daughter until she paid an additional $1,700 in cash.
"I decided to bring my daughter, and I said to myself, with God's help, I will bring my other two daughters," she said.
Laura Perez-Boston works primarily on human trafficking cases with the Houston Interfaith Justice Center. She said numbers on the rate of smuggling cases like this one are hard to track because most aren't reported.
"A lot of folks are scared to report this type of abuse, fearing they might also be deported in the process."
The missing teenager's mother said she will put that fear aside, hoping that authorities can help her find her daughter.
"I know that with God, nothing is impossible. I know that God will help bring my daughter back safe."