Federal agents who raided a dumpy house in the Watts section of Los Angeles this week found more than 100 illegal immigrants locked inside as they waited for family members to pay ransom to smugglers who had led them across the border.
The discovery is but the latest sign of how large and brutal immigrant-smuggling rings are becoming in regions along the nation’s southwestern border, federal authorities told the Washington Post.
With growing frequency, authorities in Southern California and Arizona are finding secret “drop houses” filled with illegal immigrants being held captive by armed smuggling gangs until their families hand over much more cash than they had bargained for when deals for their crossings were struck south of the border.
Around Los Angeles in recent weeks, law enforcement officials have found more than 70 illegal immigrants being held inside six rooms of a decrepit motel. They have busted a brothel where teenage girls were unexpectedly being forced to work off debts owed to smugglers who had secured their passage across the border.
Federal officials say that smuggling operations around L.A. appear to be intensifying in the aftermath of a new crackdown against the illegal trade in Arizona.