Texas authorities discover suspected smuggling 'stash house' with altar to cartel patron saint

An illegal migrant man crosses through the banks of the Rio Grande to be processed by the Border Patrol El Paso Sector, Texas, after crossing from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on May 10, 2023.
An illegal migrant man crosses through the banks of the Rio Grande to be processed by the Border Patrol El Paso Sector, Texas, after crossing from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on May 10, 2023. | HERIKA MARTINEZ/AFP via Getty Images

Texas officials discovered five illegal immigrants and an altar to the cartel patron saint Santa Muerte inside of a “stash house" near Fort Worth, a place that authorities say traffickers use to hide migrants that they plan to smuggle into the country. 

Terrell County Sheriff Thaddeus Cleveland announced this week that authorities received an anonymous tip about a house in River Oaks located just outside of Forth Worth.

In a statement to The Christian Post, Sheriff Cleveland said that the tip came from a “confidential source.” According to the sheriff, the owner of the house where the authorities found the migrants has denied any knowledge of illegal activity. 

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“But I can tell you after almost 30 years in law enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico Border, I find that hard to believe,” Cleveland stated. 

The sheriff told The Daily Mail earlier this week authorities found four men and one woman who entered the country illegally, as well as a tunnel they believe could have been used to hide drugs. 

All five of the migrants have been turned over to federal immigration authorities.

The sheriff told CP that the migrants had been returned to Mexico and that the group was part of a smuggling organization called “Mendoza-Nandho.” The organization is known for smuggling illegal immigrants from Hidalgo, Texas, into other parts of the country. 

“They have historically smuggled illegal aliens to Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia,” Cleveland said about the group. “The Terrell County Sheriff's Office has interdicted five smuggling loads in recent months associated to this organization.” 

As The Daily Mail reported, another discovery inside the house included what appeared to be an altar to the cartel patron saint, Santa Muerte, with tequila and cigarettes laid in front of her as offerings. The saint is the personification of death, and law enforcement agencies say it is a commonly used symbol in organized crime. 

Last month, Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador agreed during a news briefing to help limit the flow of drugs into the United States, but he refused to confront drug cartels on U.S. orders. In addition to illegal immigration, another issue related to the border concerns deadly drugs like fentanyl entering the U.S. through the southern border. 

"We are not going to act as policemen for any foreign government," López Obrador said. "Mexico First. Our home comes first." 

As the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last month, nearly 108,000 Americans died of drug overdose deaths in 2022. The CDC noted that between 2021 and 2022, the rate of overdose deaths for synthetic opioids other than methadone increased 4.1%. 

The discovery of the River Oaks safe house comes amid increasing concerns about the U.S. Border Patrol’s ability to handle the massive flow of migrants attempting to enter the country illegally.

According to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, border patrol agents have encountered a total of 1.7 million migrants so far in the first few months of fiscal year 2024. Last year, agents encountered a total of 3.2 million migrants. 

Data released by the Pew Research Center last month surveyed 5,140 adults from all 50 U.S. states between Jan. 16 and 21. The study asked Americans for their opinions on the current state of U.S. immigration policy. 

When asked for their views on "the large number of migrants attempting to enter the U.S. at the border," a plurality of respondents (45%) identified the situation as a "crisis," while an additional 32% characterized the border surge as a "major problem." Seventeen percent of people said that the number of migrants attempting to enter the country is "a minor problem," while the remaining 4% thought it was "not a problem."

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follow her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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