The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Chad E. Meacham announced today that Manuela Magdalena Jimon Castro, 30, who held 17 undocumented immigrants hostage in her home has been charged with alien harboring. According to the complaint, Ms. Castro and a family member partnered with a coyote operation to hold undocumented individuals hostage at their home, threatening to deprive them of food and water and refusing to allow them to leave until they paid $11,000 to $12,000 or “worked off” the debt. A coyote or pollero is someone who specializes in human smuggling, bringing people across the United States border from Mexico. Coyotes typically have extensive experience in smuggling people and other goods, and they use a variety of techniques to get their clients over the border, ranging from sneaking across the desert to hiding smuggled immigrants in trucks. Illegal border crossings are often extremely dangerous, and many coyotes command a high fee as a result; often, this fee must be paid up front, in case an immigrant does not make it across
The investigation began when law enforcement in California received a tip from a woman who claimed her sister was being held for ransom in Texas. The woman reported that her sister had traveled from Guatemala to Mexico with the intention of seeking asylum in the United States, then crossed the border at the behest of a Mexican cartel who held her captive. She said her sister sent her a pin of a location in Friona before she escaped.
The woman said that while in Mexico, she was forced into a car at gunpoint by individuals she believed to be members of a smuggling cartel. After several months, they walked her across the southern border, then shuttled her from house to house in Texas and New Mexico, refusing to let her go until she paid off her debt. Eventually, she ended up at the Castro residence, where she was told she would be detained until she paid $12,000.
After law enforcement searched the Castro home, they recovered 17 undocumented immigrants, including two minor children. Most of the individuals attempted to hide, concealing themselves in the attic, in cupboards, or inside totes covered in blankets. The recovered immigrants admitted that they had entered the country illegally with smugglers. They indicated that the smugglers had confiscated their cell phones, and only allowed intermittent contact with family members in order to obtain money to pay their “entrance fees.” Several stated that they believed they had to stay at the residence in Friona until their entrance fee had been paid in full.
The case is a vivid reminder of the dangers of illigal immigration, as well as the consequences of lax border security as Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas when he spoke at the Aspen Security Forum a couple of weeks ago claimed that the southern border "is secure" – even as Border Patrol agents are facing historic migrant numbers.He was asked about the situation at the southern border , which has seen more than 200,000 migrant encounters a month in the last four months. But, even though he acknowledged the situation is a historic challenge, the secretary claimed the border is "secure. And Washington, D.C.’s Democrat Mayor Muriel Bowser admitted that the capital city is overwhelmed by an influx of illegal immigrants who are being bused in from the U.S.-Mexico border. New York City’s Democrat Mayor Eric Adams later echoed Bowser’s frustrations. Texas and Arizona started busing illegal immigrants to D.C. earlier this year in an effort to alleviate the strain border communities are feeling due to the mass influx of migrants across the Southern border