HOUSTON - More than 100 immigrants were found at a suspected stash house in south Harris County, according to the Houston Police Department.
Houston police made the discovery Wednesday morning in the 14700 block of Almeda School Road. Police say they had been conducting surveillance at the home after they received a report of a kidnapping Tuesday night.
Police say they were contacted by the family of a 24-year-old woman who reported that a human smuggler, or coyote, had failed to show up at a meeting place where they were supposed to turn over the woman and her two children, ages 5 and 7.
According to Houston police, the investigation led to the home on Almeda School Road, where they pulled over a vehicle that was seen leaving Wednesday morning. Inside the suspects' vehicle, police say they found two guns and evidence of a human smuggling operation.
"Our focus from the get-go has been the safety of the mother and the children and the decision was made to go into the residence after these individuals were taken into custody," said Houston Police spokesperson John Cannon.
He said once inside, the officers found a "sea of people," ranging in age from teens to adults.
"Bodies upon bodies, people stacked on top of each other. Dirty, filthy, conditions," said Cannon.
Police say a total of 94 men and 14 women were discovered, including one pregnant woman who was taken to a hospital for treatment. Cannon said all of the illegal immigrants had been held against their will for up to two weeks, locked inside of the home that had only one bathroom with a partially functioning toilet.
"I can't believe it, can't believe because you never see that," said one neighbor.
The men were wearing only underwear and no shoes, so they couldn't escape, police say. The doors were locked from the outside.
An ICE official told Local 2 it was the largest operation they've encountered in five years.
Authorities say 500 chickens were also found on the property.
A spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said a total of five suspects were taken into custody and the case would be forwarded to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The immigrants were also detained and were taken to an ICE detention facility. Once there, they'll be fingerprinted and undergo medical screenings.
Each person will also have a one-on-one interview.
Some may be returned to their home countries, but decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis. All of the them will have the opportunity to go before an immigration judge.
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