Texas Manhunt, Murders Expose Hidden Population of Illegal Migrants

A group of Brazilian migrants make their way around a gap in the U.S.-Mexico border in Yum
AP Photo/Eugene Garcia

The quintuple murder of Honduran migrants has exposed the expanding mid-Texas housing developments that are home to many illegal economic migrants, said a Texas-based investigator for the Center for Immigration Studies.

The murders took place in a so-called “colonia” of migrants’ homes that sprawl across Liberty and San Jacinto counties. This settlement has created a home for some poor Americans — and a sanctuary for many tens of thousands of hard-working illegal migrants, plus a hideout for cartel outlaws, Todd Bensman told Breitbart News.

The cartel outlaws likely included the alleged gunman in the April 28 murders, Francisco Oropeza, Bensman said.

Bensman visited the area in 2022 for his new book, seeking to talk to local officials and police. Today, he spoke to locals and was told that a search of the gunman’s home showed:

This guy was an adherent of the cartel religion, known as Santa Muerta, and he had a big shrine in his master bedroom … The candles were still burning yesterday that he lit before because they burn for a long time … and it turns out that he had a tattoo on his shoulder — you can see it in the photos that the FBI put on about him — that means very likely he was involved in criminality, some kind of organized crime, because that is an underworld cult religion.

“This is a cartel town,” Bensman told Breitbart:

Evidence of cartel involvement dates to the earliest days of the illegal-alien settlement boom, to at least 2011 when federal, state. and local law investigators raided a Mexican drug cartel’s marijuana grow operation on 300 acres in Liberty County. They found explosives, 6,000 marijuana plant worker bunkhouses, and guard towers.

The Beaumont Enterprise reported in 2011:

“This operation was very elaborate and professional,” [Sheriff Rex] Evans said. “It’s not like a teenager growing some marijuana plants. It is a highly organized, very professional and very sophisticated system that even had its own drying system.”

The sanctuary colonia is described in Bensman’s 2023 book, OVERRUN: How Joe Biden Unleashed the Greatest Border Crisis in U.S. History.

Colonias is a term for unorganized towns of poor migrant workers. Most are located along the Texas-Mexico border and are filled with low-wage agriculture workers. But the sprawling settlement north of Houston is too far north to be legally defined as a colonia, and it is more developed. For example, the new lots are often connected to local sewer and electrical lines, said Bensman.

The Liberty County colonia is off-limits for immigration enforcement agencies, and is avoided by federal agencies, and by the Texas media, Bensman said, adding:

When I was doing my reporting, I was knocking on doors, going house-to-house trying to get interviews with people. I needed somebody to just be willing to cooperate with me about their immigration status.

I went to one house and it was a woman with her kids, and after a few minutes of me explaining what I was after, and I was wit hthe Center for Immigration Studies, she gets her husband on the phone and the guy says, “I’m gonna fucking murder you. I’m going to kill you right now. … I’m coming over there right now. If you’re still there when I get there, you’re dead.” That’s how it is out there. It’s rough.

Nobody knows [how many residents are illegals]. But, anecdotally, I interviewed the superintendent of the school district, and he said “I’m not gonna sit here and tell you that these are really anything but illegal immigrants.” The vast majority of them are illegal immigrants.

I talked with the manager of a restaurant who said, “Yeah, you know, half of my employees are illegal. I pay them in cash, or they have fake social security cards.”

I did meet a couple of Americans — U.S.-born poor people that had bad credit and wouldn’t be able to buy property any other way — but even they say that “Almost everybody who lives around here is illegal.”

It’s a no-go zone for ICE [Immigration and Custom Enforcement] — it never shows up, all the Feds stay away from this area. It’s a safe zone for illegal immigrants. Nobody bothers them about it — it’s a sanctuary for illegal immigrants.

Many Americans have left the area, partly because of the crime and because the schools have filled with the children of migrants.

The colonia is also a big revenue generator for local businesses because it is expanding past 50,000 lots.

Lots are sold by the owners directly to buyers without a need for banks or state checks. Each sale generates roughly $30,000 for the land, plus additional revenues from water and electrical services, the sale of buildings and mobile homes, follow-on spending on autos, groceries, sales taxes, and much else, he said:

When I was there in May of 2022, when I did a lot of my on-the-ground reporting, [I saw that] every block or two had a business development for gas stations and restaurants and to serve the community. So an economy was growing up there. Nobody wants it to stop — the incentive is entirely the other way — and you know everybody’s making money on this.

The homes serve as hidden dormitories for many illegals who openly work for businesses in nearby Houston, he added:

This is 45 miles northwest of Houston. They all have access to work in Houston, especially when Hurricane Ike came in and wiped Houston out. That was the biggest boom that place had … It’s a sanctuary community. Everybody I talked to — cops, politicians, clerks behind the desk at the gas station, the illegal guy that [talked to me about rents] — says that ICE never goes here. Everybody feels safe here.

Texas journalists and the national media are eager to ignore the population because it exposes the scale and economic impact of illegal migration, Bensman said.

For example, a May 2 report by the New York Times‘ Houston bureau chief described the sprawling neighborhoods — but somehow identified “the sound of gunfire” as the most newsworthy element:

The gunfire on Friday took place along Walter Drive, a rutted dirt road outside of the small city of Cleveland, where recent migrants and longtime residents live in closely packed quarter-acre plots, a half-hewn suburban subdivision in the midst of dense woodland.

Like many parts of Texas just outside major cities, San Jacinto County, about 50 miles from downtown Houston, has been rapidly growing.

On Tuesday, large posters bearing the correct image of the man being sought stared back at drivers from several intersections around San Jacinto County, with text [only] in Spanish offering steep rewards — now totaling $80,000 — for information leading to his arrest.

The Washington Post has had reporters cover the story, but they have yet to describe the town.

“I used to be a reporter myself for 23 years,” Bensman added. “I like owning this [story] … it’s such a great story — everything about it.”



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