Sunland Park, New Mexico - Two Guatemalan migrants who escaped alleged kidnappers who held them at ransom led authorities to a human smuggling stash house in Rancho Anapra, a Juarez colonia south of Sunland Park, New Mexico.
U.S. Border Patrol Agents coordinated efforts with Chihuahua State Police to identify the alleged human smuggling operation, said Border Patrol officials.
On Thursday, January 10, 2019, Border Patrol agents from the Santa Teresa Station spoke with a father and son from Guatemala claimed to have been held for ransom by smugglers based in Ciudad Juarez.
Agents apprehended the 17-year-old son near Mount Cristo Rey in Sunland Park and began investigating when they noticed the juvenile had facial injuries. The teenager told the agents he and his father were beaten while being held in a stash house against their will.
The 17-year-old further stated he and his father attempted to escape captivity but became separated. He stated the smugglers were able to catch up to him and began to physically assault him.
During the assault, the teenager was able to escape and run north across the international border, where the Border Patrol agents apprehended him. The boy told the agents he did not know the whereabouts of his father and feared the smugglers killed him.
A short time later, Border Patrol Agents apprehended an adult Guatemalan man who illegally crossed the border about a mile-and-a-half from where the agents encountered the teenager.
Agents said the distraught man informed them he lost his son as they escaped from a stash house in Mexico and believed smugglers might have killed his son. After the man provided the agents with his son's name, the agents realized he was the father of the teenager they had apprehended earlier. The father and son were reunited at the Santa Teresa Station and family members were contacted.
A subsequent investigation revealed the location of the stash house in Colonia Rancho Anapra, south of Sunland Park, where the two migrants claimed they were held and extorted for money. Agents uncovered additional evidence supporting the claim the father and son, as well as other Central American migrants, were being held against their will.
Investigators relayed the information to the Government of Mexico and authorities there initiated an investigation.
On Tuesday, January 15, 2019, Chihuahua State Police searched a property in Rancho Anapra and allegedly encountered an individual locked in the house and unable to leave. The only door to the building was locked with a chain from the outside, leaving anyone inside unable to escape. The stash house had several mattresses strewn about, incidcating many people had been staying there, officials said.
"This event demonstrates the dangers of illegally crossing the International Border, and the reality of human smuggling organizations disregard for the well-being of those attempting to reach the United States," the Border Patrol said in a statement, "This event demonstrates the importance of the U.S. Border Patrol working with our Mexican counterparts and educating the public of the dangers of attempting to enter the United States unlawfully."