Texas authorities in El Paso discovered a stash house with 23 migrants and an underworld shrine worshiped by drug traffickers inside, officials said Tuesday.
Special agents with the Texas Department of Public Safety found the home Monday while working on Operation Lone Star, a border initiative started by Texas to curb human smuggling. The home was being managed by a U.S. citizen originally from Mexico, the agency said.
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He was arrested and charged with operating a stash house.
Inside the home were 23 migrants from Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala. They were handed over to the U.S. Border Patrol.
Also inside the home was an elaborate Santa Muerte shrine, which shows a female skeletal figure wearing a long robe with a scythe in one hand and the world in another.
The shine is worshiped by Mexican drug cartel members who pray to it for their protection. The underworld saint is associated with the violent drug cartel trade. The presence of the shrine highlights the connection between cross-border human smuggling and Mexico’s drug cartels.
Since Operation Lone Star began, authorities have discovered 261 stash houses and 3,000 illegal immigrants being held inside them.