Authorities Raid Immigrant Drop House In South Los Angeles
Paul Chavez, KCAL-9 (LA), Jun. 30
LOS ANGELES (AP) Police investigating a report of a kidnapping found 27 suspected illegal immigrants who had been held by smugglers at a small hotel.
Authorities were tipped off Tuesday by a 911 call that people were being held at the Polaris Hotel in South Los Angeles, said police Sgt. Michael Parlor.
The suspected smugglers fled before police arrived with their lights and sirens on, Parlor said.
Officers who went to the hotel to investigate a possible kidnapping found 13 people crammed into one motel room and 14 in another, he said.
“We got food for everyone. It looks like they had no food for a while,” Parlor said. He said the 25 men and two women were in good condition otherwise.
Robert Goetsch, a senior special agent with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement said a preliminary investigation found that the immigrants were smuggled into the United States on Monday and had been held at the motel since then.
Three of the illegal immigrants were detained for questioning because authorities believe they may have helped the smugglers. The rest were going to be transported to an immigration facility for further questioning and likely deportation.
A crowd of mostly Hispanics gathered at two corners near the motel holding large Mexican flags and chanting “let them go!”
At one point the crowd of about 30 people blocked off the street as three large white vans pulled up to take away the immigrants. One person threw a rock at police and struck a squad car. About a dozen officers lined up shoulder to shoulder and cleared the street as the vans departed.
An official from the Mexican Consulate office spoke to some of the immigrants to advise them of their rights to an attorney before they were taken away.
Louis Carrillo, a consulting attorney with the Mexican Consulate, said it was the third time in recent months that he had seen Los Angeles police working in tandem with federal immigration authorities.
“That should not be permitted in Los Angeles,” he said. “The police department assistance is counterproductive because it can lead illegal immigrants to fear reporting crimes.”
Parlor said police responded initially because they believed a kidnapping had occurred and called federal authorities after they found the immigrants.
Illegal immigrants who are smuggled into the country typically are held at so-called “drop houses” until their smuggling fees are paid off. In April and May, authorities raided two drop houses and in each case found about 80 immigrants were being held in cramped quarters.