The US Department of Homeland Security is investigating after more than 90 people were found in a house in southwest Houston that police called people smuggling.
Deputy Police Commissioner Daryn Edwards said the police received a kidnapping call Thursday night and the homicide division worked all night to enter the house with a tactical team.
“When they walked in the house they found that this will indeed lead to an investigation into people smuggling,” Edwards said at a news conference on Friday, adding, “It was a big surprise when we got to the house and saw what we saw . “
Officers discovered dozens of people “huddled” in the two-story house. Five of the people were women and the rest were men, said Edwards. There weren’t any kids inside and the youngest person is in their early 20s, he said.
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Edwards said it “didn’t look like it was a serious injury.” The officials gave people food and water because “they said they hadn’t eaten in a while,” he said.
Edwards said officials were “concerned” that there may be COVID-19 cases in the group and the health department is on the way to do rapid tests. Some people couldn’t smell or taste, others had a fever, he said.
“We haven’t heard anything from any of the neighbors that would lead them to believe something like this was going on. It’s very surprising,” he said.
Edwards called the incident “disturbing” and “obviously not something we see often”. He said Homeland Security Investigations, the main investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, was looking into it.
“It’s definitely more a smuggling issue than a human trafficking issue,” said Edwards.
According to the US Immigration and Customs Service, it is human trafficking
Exploitation of people for the purposes of forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation, while people smuggling involves the provision of a service – typically transportation or fraudulent documents – to a person who voluntarily seeks illegal entry into a foreign country.