By Mythili Sampathkumar
Thirty-four people believed to be immigrants who entered the country illegally have been put in federal custody after a house was raided in Phoenix, Arizona, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials said.
The “drop house,” or sort of waiting station where human smugglers hide undocumented immigrants, was raided based on a tip that a “local residence contained a large group of suspected undocumented aliens,” Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman for ICE, said in a statement.
The individuals have been detained on “immigration administrative charges,” according to Ms Mack but no further details about their fate were provided.
Video from a local news helicopter showed the more than 30 people sitting in the driveway of the home, which lies inside a gated community and the Arizona Republic newspaper reported they were restrained with plastic handcuffs.
Sadia Koloff, a 17-year-old neighbour, told the Arizona Central news outlet that she and her mother were “stunned” by the scene. “It was like heartbreaking to see those kids. They’re around my age and younger and they’re all crying,” she said.
“Yeah, they came here illegally, but it breaks my heart because I want people to have a better life. I hate seeing people suffer, and seeing this really hurts my heart a lot,” Ms Koloff said.
According to other neighbours, the immigrants were all escorted onto a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) bus yesterday evening by Phoenix police and ICE officials.
Ms Mack indicated the investigation into the smuggling operation and alleged smugglers, referred to as ‘coyotes,’ is ongoing.
The raid comes at a time when President Donald Trump has called for increased enforcement of immigration rules and praised construction of the roughly 2,000-mile US-Mexico border wall. He has also called for the crackdown on so-called sanctuary cities like Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago, which have vowed to protect the confidential information of undocumented immigrants and not assist federal authorities with rounding them up. Instead, local police focus on combatting criminal and violent activities.