US police rescued more than 100 suspected illegal immigrants believed to have been held against their will in a filthy Texas “stash” house.
While the 94 men, 14 women and two children discovered in the house were tired and hungry, they did not appear to be seriously injured.
A pregnant woman was taken to hospital for evaluation.
“It’s a classic sign of a smuggling … operation in which people are treated like animals, more so than human beings,” Houston police spokesman John Cannon told reporters on Thursday.
Five suspected human smugglers were arrested and federal immigration agents were processing the people found behind the locked doors and windows of a cramped, two-bedroom bungalow.
Many had been held for anywhere from days to weeks – the men forced to strip down to their underwear to deter them from escaping – and will likely end up being deported, local media reported.
At least eight of the immigrants were Mexican, including three minors, the Mexican Foreign Ministry said.
The Consulate General of Mexico in Houston was providing the immigrants consular assistance.
Police discovered the stash house after they were contacted by relatives of a missing woman and her two young children.
They opened the door to a “sea of people” and the stench of human waste, Cannon said.
“The smell and the conditions are just awful,” Cannon said.
“There’s no hot water in the house, there is a toilet that partially works, one bathroom – one bathroom for an excess of 100 people.”
Hundreds of chickens found on the property were believed to be used for illegal cock-fighting.