Four people have been detained at the Hays County Law Enforcement Center with state kidnapping charges and face potential federal charges for smuggling and harboring illegal aliens.
Eight women and 18 men, originating from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Mexico were being held against their will by Alejandro Guzman Ortega, Julio Cesar Selgado, Luz Maria Garcia and Trevino Rosalina Alvarez.
The suspects allegedly threatened the lives of the illegal aliens in return for money from their family members. The family members then notified authorities in San Marcos and Austin on Tuesday, which prompted collaborative enforcement action at 518 Iris Street in the San Marcos Regency Mobile Home Park early Wednesday evening.
The smuggled aliens were being held under humiliating conditions. They were forced to wear only underwear and several of them had minor injuries. Ten were taken to the hospital and released the same day.
“Nobody has a right to treat people like that,” said San Marcos Police Chief Howard Williams. “They were just basically treated like dogs, give them food and water once a day, keep them from dying type of thing and wait for the money to come in. It’s a horrible way to treat somebody; nobody deserves to be treated like that.”
In a press conference held July 17, Chief Williams said the illegal aliens had been held in the trailer for several days, while some had arrived Wednesday.
“They didn’t all come in one trip,” said Williams. “They’ve all had different lengths of stay.”
Local agencies are working with federal agencies to determine the appropriate charges. The 26 illegal aliens are now in custody of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“We were brought in by the State local authorities here today to handle what has turned out to be a smuggling organization,” said Deputy Special Agent Vincent Iglio of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “At this point the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement steps in to see if there’s a federal jurisdiction, we try to determine whether or not somebody was a victim or whether somebody was an organizational member. Once we determine this, we hand the case over to the US attorney’s office for federal prosecution.”
San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz found out about the incident Thursday morning.
“These are issues facing our nation, and we’re on the I-35 corridor so we’re not going to be immune to these things,” said Narvaiz. “America is the place people seek to have a better life, and they want it so bad that they are willing to put their life in jeopardy.”
The San Marcos Police Department, Hays County Sheriff’s Office, Austin Police Department, Travis County Sheriff’s Office, The Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Marshal, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and a helicopter from the San Antonio Police Department participated in the operation. One suspect described as a short thin Hispanic male is still at large.
By ANDY SEVILLA
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