Posted: Jun 18, 2012 5:16 PM
Updated: Jun 18, 2012 6:02 PM
WESLACO - Small cities in the mid-Valley are now the go-to places for smugglers. They're hiding illegal immigrants among unassuming neighbors.
Hilda Gonzalez has called a quiet Weslaco neighborhood home for 28 years. "We know all our neighbors," she said.
But three months ago, dozens of strangers ran through the neighborhood. Smugglers had stashed 80 to 100 illegal immigrants in a small home on Missouri Street.
"When we had 30 illegals, aliens running from our officers and a chase, I was shocked," admitted J.P. Rodriguez, the Weslaco Police Department spokesperson.
He said another stash house like that one is probably on another street around the corner. "These are temporary stash houses... secondary or third location where the illegals are moved out," he explained. "They may be there for hours until they get moved or weeks or months, working off their debts."
Rodriguez said smugglers are still bringing people and drugs through Mission and McAllen, but now they're moving east to Weslaco, Mercedes and La Feria.
"The smugglers are moving away from the rural areas, and they're moving more towards the inner neighborhoods that appear to be peaceful and normal," he told us.
Rodriguez added accidents, assaults and robberies increase in neighborhoods that smugglers move into. "Some of these individuals - out of desperation - steal food or water," he said.
This kind of change isn't what Gonzalez wants on her quiet street. She realizes she may not know all her neighbors after all.