BEAUMONT, TEXAS—Federal agents say they have shut down two alleged human smuggling rings.
Investigators say the suspects would send illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central America to work in Chinese restaurants around the United States.
Agents say both illegal operations were based in Houston, where members of the Department of Homeland Security raided 13 homes and businesses.
“In essence, they ran a takeout and delivery service, not for food but for people,” said Brian Moskowitz, special agent in charge of Homeland Security investigations.
Investigators say the illegal workers worked for low wages and lived in terrible conditions.
Police raided a home in Port Arthur where immigrants were sleeping on mattresses and using buckets for bathrooms.
While there’s no evidence that the illegal workers were being held against their will, they had no money or family nearby, so investigators say they were easy victims.
“This was a cash-and-carry business designed to pray on the desperation of the alien,” said US Attorney Malcolm Bales.
Prosecutors indicted 32 suspects involved in the scheme. The illegal immigrants taken into custody during the raids are now in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
While many of the illegal immigrants will be sent back home, others will be allowed to stay in the United States, based on certain circumstances, officials said.