HOUSTON - A house overflowing with more than 100 people presumed to be in the U.S. illegally was uncovered just outside Houston today, a police spokesman said.
The suspected stash house was found during a search for a 24-year-old woman and her two children, a 7-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy, that were reported missing by relatives late Tuesday after a man failed to meet them as planned at an undisclosed location on the city's north side, said John Cannon, a spokesman for the Houston Police Department. Many of the people in home that authorities said appeared to be part of a human smuggling operation were dressed only in undergarments and they were sitting in in filthy conditions and surrounded by trash bags full of old clothing, Cannon said.
When police opened the door to the home they found "a large, large group of people, some sitting on top of one another, very confined spaces," Cannon said. "They yell out the woman's name to see if she is in there, and she emerges with the two children. They're OK."
The single-family home, in southern Harris County, is about 1,500-square-feet, Cannon said. At first, officers saw only a mattress on the floor and a refrigerator in an exterior room. It was when they went further into the house that they found the people - 94 men, all in their undergarments and shoeless, 15 women and the woman with her two children - lying in filth in several small rooms, all with access to one bathroom and no hot water.
Many of the women said they had been in the house for three or four days, Cannon said. One woman said she had been there for 15 days. All of them said they were hungry, thirsty and tired.
Authorities said five men have been arrested.