MESA, Ariz. – More than 160 illegal immigrants -- some who had not eaten in days -- were found crammed inside a house in a well-to-do Phoenix suburb, officials said.
Several men believed to be immigrant smugglers were arrested during Wednesday's roundup.
The immigrants from Mexico and Central America "were sitting shoulder to shoulder, back to back," said Russell L. Ahr, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (search). "You could not see the carpet."
Federal and state authorities found the immigrants in a house along a golf course. Some had paid their smugglers up to $6,000, Ahr said.
About 60 of the men, women and juveniles were discovered locked in bedrooms with deadbolts, leading investigators to think they might have been hostages. An assault rifle and a handgun were also found.
None of the bathrooms was working in the house, nor was there any furniture or food except for some canned goods, authorities said.
After the roundup, the immigrants were fed and checked against federal databases for criminal and immigration histories. Ahr said those without prior infractions would be sent back home.