Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Agents find 62 illegal immigrants in home (AP c/o Houston Chronicle)

Agents find 62 illegal immigrants in home

Aug. 26, 2008, 6:31PM

EDINBURG, Texas — Federal agents found 62 illegal immigrants in a two-bedroom house after receiving a tip about suspicious activity in a quiet neighborhood Tuesday.

Neighbors on both sides of the duplex where Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents found the immigrants were shocked by the news.

"I was just looking around thinking 'where would they all fit,'" said Cris Melaragno, who lives in another duplex next door. "I barely have room for me and my three kids."

Melaragno said she had spoken with her neighbors who shared the duplex with the stash house and they had never heard a sound.

"I can hear it when my neighbors play the radio," Melaragno said.

When she noticed the agents surrounding the house Tuesday morning, she came out but was told to go back inside.

The only thing that seemed suspicious in hindsight was a man who always entered the house after closing the garage door and who drove a variety of pickup trucks and jeeps, Melaragno said.

Mostly young families live in the new brick duplexes lining one side of a residential street.

The Border Patrol received a phone call reporting suspicious activity at the home Tuesday and went to check it out with ICE and the Edinburg Police Department, said Border Patrol spokesman Dan Doty.

Inside they found 62 people who appeared to be in good health. It was unknown how long they had been in the house, Doty said.

The undocumented immigrants hailed from a variety of Central American countries including Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Mexico, said ICE spokeswoman Adelina Pruneda.

"We're working leads to determine how they got into the country," Pruneda said. No arrests have been made.

Border Patrol processed the immigrants and they could be turned over to ICE for deportation, Doty said.

Yesenia Castro, who lives in the duplex on the other side of the stash house, was watching news of the illegal immigrant bust on television Tuesday evening and said she did not know anyone lived next door.

"I can't believe it either," Castro said in Spanish.

Doty said finding stash houses with so many illegal immigrants was more common eight to 10 years ago, but less so now.

"If you saw the house, you'd be shocked," he said. "It was a very nice neighborhood."

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