Police and Activist Spar over 'Victim' Status for Illegal Immigrants in Texas Bust

Police and Activist Spar over 'Victim' Status for Illegal Immigrants in Texas Bust

On March 25 a tip led police in Austin, Texas to the scene of a then-suspected human smuggling operation in a trailer home located on Freidrich Lane, according to initial reports collected by Breitbart Texas. 28 people, most of whom are suspected illegal immigrants by authorities, were discovered in the residence. Although law enforcement initially believed some of the individuals were being held against their will, it has now been determined that none of the people recovered from the trailer were victims. 

An Austin Police Department (APD) press release submitted to Breitbart Texas stated, “After detectives conducted the interviews, none of the 28 people recovered from the trailers were identified as victims.” The statement added, “There was no indication that human trafficking occurred or that they were victims of any other crimes.”

Two individuals were identified as suspects in the matter and were taken into the custody of U.S. Federal Marshalls, according to the APD. The others were brought to an U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility to be interviewed shortly thereafter. 

Alejandro Caceres, Executive Director of the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition, is skeptical that none of the recovered individuals were victims.

“I find it highly suspicious,” Caceres told Breitbart Texas. “How could they possibly have interviewed 28 people in under 48 hours? At this point, the APD can say there was no human trafficking because there was no evidence, since the evidence was removed.”

Robert Miljenovich, a Sergeant with the APD Human Trafficking and Vice Unit told Breitbart Texas, “We determined that none of the 28 individuals were victims by interviewing them and investigating the condition of the scene.” Sergeant Miljenovich added, “There were no indications that anyone was forcefully restrained. The conditions in the trailer weren’t disgusting, it was just sparsely furnished.”

Sergeant Miljenovich continued, “It is not uncommon for us to recover high numbers of people in one trailer–this is not an uncommon occurrence, these stash houses are all over the place. We’ve gotten 20 or 30 people out of trailers before. The most unusual part of this case for us is how much media attention it has gotten.”

Caceres said the case is a “clear violation of the 10th Amendment” and argued the federal government should not “use local APD as an arm for ICE.”

Caceres said the case will cause the immigrant community to become more distrusting of local law enforcement. 

“The immigrant community makes up significant percent of Austin community–if you have a percent of community who does trust law enforcement, that’s a problem for everyone,” Caceres said. 

Sergeant Miljenovich maintained that the proper investigative steps are being taken, and that this was not a case involving victims.

“There are instances where they are completely not free to go; they’re beaten and extorted for additional money. Those types of groups are out there, but that wasn’t the case in this one,” Miljenovich said.

Follow Kristin Tate on Twitter @KristinBTate