Houston clearly has a problem.
Following a comprehensive, two-year-long investigation, Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit in September 2009 against the City of Houston, the Houston Police Department and Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt on behalf of Houston Police Sergeant Joslyn M. Johnson. Sergeant Johnson is the widow of former Houston Police officer Rodney J. Johnson, killed in the line of duty by an illegal alien five years ago, on September 21, 2006.
This particular illegal alien, Juan Leonardo Quintero-Perez, had been previously deported and had numerous run-ins with the Houston Police Department. But because of Houston’s illegal alien sanctuary policy, he was allowed to roam the streets until he shot and killed Officer Johnson during a routine traffic stop. Sergeant Johnson argues Houston’s sanctuary policy not only killed her husband but also compromises her ability to enforce the law and uphold her oath as a police officer.
Well, now Judicial Watch has uncovered yet another massive scandal related to Houston’s illegal alien sanctuary policy.
JW investigators recently obtained documents from the Houston Police Department detailing a shocking sex trafficking operation run by illegal aliens, including a former prostitute, Maria Rojas, who had previously been deported. Importantly, the evidence uncovered by Judicial Watch shows the criminal activity continued unfettered for almost a decade right under the noses of Houston police officers who were hamstrung by the Houston Police Department’s sanctuary policy.
According to the documents, police officers responded to service calls to the business co-owned by Ms. Rojas on at least 60 occasions, and were well aware of the criminal activity taking place at these establishments, but apparently did not check the immigration status of any of the arrestees or Ms. Rojas. (This is consistent with Houston PD General Order 500-5, which prohibits police officers from inquiring about the citizenship status of any person.)
On February 17, 2011, after a three-year investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas announced the indictment of Maria Rojas and her brother, Jose Luis Rojas, on sex trafficking conspiracy charges. They and eight co-defendants were also charged with conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens. Maria Rojas, who was deported following a 1999 arrest for prostitution, was charged with illegally reentering the country after deportation.
The indictment alleges that Maria and Jose Luis Rojas ran a sex slave trafficking ring since at least August 1999. The scheme involved luring young women into the country illegally from Mexico with false promises of employment, then forcing them to work as prostitutes at La Costeñita Bar and El Club Restaurante in Houston. Maria Rojas and Javier Guevara Belmontes (a legal resident) co-owned the locations. The remaining defendants were illegal aliens who served as managers or employees of the businesses.
Judicial Watch filed an open records request with the Houston Police Department seeking documents related to police contacts with the individuals named in the indictment and police activity at the locations related to the conspiracy. Documents produced to Judicial Watch from the HPD show law enforcement officers responded to service calls at the businesses co-owned by Maria Rojas on 60 occasions over a five year period and to a residence co-owned by Maria Rojas and Javier Belmontes on an additional eight occasions:
- Police documented 48 calls for service to La Costeñita between 2006 and 2011. Nine of these events involved vice squad investigations and/or arrests for prostitution, and during this time frame 12 individuals were arrested for prostitution. There were 17 cases of assault (including three shootings and a stabbing). There was one cocaine possession arrest (in May 2008) and one armed robbery arrest (in December 2007).
- There were 12 documented police calls for service to El Club Restaurante between 2006 and 2010. These included four burglaries, two assaults and a shooting.
- Between May 2006 and November 2010, Houston police responded to the residence of Maria Rojas and Javier Belmontes eight times. On three occasions, police spoke with and documented a complaint by Jose Luis Rojas. On November 1, 2010, Jose Luis Rojas reported an armed robbery by six unknown assailants. Three weeks later, Jose Luis Rojas reported receiving a telephonic death threat.
According to the Houston Chronicle, police officers were well aware of the illegal activity taking place at the La Costeñita location: “so notorious is the bar that undercover Texas alcohol investigators long ago documented its seedy intricacies: an escape hatch, a hidden passageway leading to decrepit and gated houses of prostitution described as ‘horse stalls.’ Federal, state and local agents learned by name and face many key characters who operated La Costeñita and made repeated–but only partially successful efforts–to stop them.”
Despite the repeated police visits to these establishments, Maria and Jose Luis Rojas continued to operate their sex trafficking operation. A simple check with ICE about Ms. Rojas, any of the arrestees, or the young girls forced into prostitution, would have indicated their illegal status, and might have led to the earlier termination of the sex slave trafficking ring.
However, Houston is a de facto sanctuary city because of Houston PD General Order 500-5. The order, signed by former chief Sam Nuchia in January 1990, states, in part, that “officers shall not make inquiries as to the citizenship status of any person, nor will officers detain or arrest persons solely on the belief that they are in this country illegally. Officers will contact the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) regarding a person only if that person is arrested on a separate criminal charge (other than a class C misdemeanor) and the officer knows the prisoner is an illegal alien.”
Sanctuary policies in Houston allowed young women to be victimized by illegal alien sex traffickers. Houston and other sanctuary cities undermine the rule of law and thwart control of our borders. And they lead to the brutal crimes associated with human trafficking. So while the Obama administration goes after Arizona for furthering our nation’s immigration laws, it ignores cities like Houston that think they don’t have to obey laws concerning illegal immigration.