The criminal complaint against 30-year-old Manuela Jimon Castro charged her with one count of alien harboring. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the allegation in a news release last week.
While the individuals Castro is accused of holding hostage are illegal aliens, the suspect herself is a resident of Friona, a small community near Amarillo. The subjects discovered at the stash house admitted to being smuggled into the country, per the DOJ.
The government stated that the hostages told investigators smugglers had taken their cell phones and limited their contact with family members as they forced them to pay their “entrance fees.”
Authorities apprehended Castro after a woman in California reported her sister was being “held for ransom in Texas” after traveling from Guatemala to Mexico. After being rescued, the sister told investigators that she had been abducted in Mexico at gunpoint, smuggled across the U.S. border months later, and forced to various locations in Texas and New Mexico.
Prosecutors allege the victim was ultimately taken to Castro’s home, where she was to be held until she paid $12,000.
“According to the complaint, Ms. Castro and a family member partnered with an illegal immigrant smuggling 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,” the news release stated.
The home was inadequately furnished, with a small number of mattresses and blankets on the floor for people to sleep. The illegal immigrants attempted to hide in cabinets, the attic, and other locations in the residence when police arrived at the scene, the DOJ stated.
According to statistics provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, there were over 178,000 enforcement encounters with illegal immigrants from Guatemala through June of this fiscal year.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and some of his colleagues introduced legislation last week that aims to deter abuse of the asylum system. His bill would permanently disqualify any illegal alien who dodges a court date from receiving benefits under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Proponents of stronger border security believe the Biden administration has incentivized illegal immigration by enacting measures such as limiting deportations and ending the “Remain in Mexico” policy.
Members of Congress such as Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (D-TX-16) suggest that Republicans have oversold the urgency of illegal immigration and created a logjam in the immigration system.
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Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."