Ariz. Takes Aim at Migrant ‘Drop Houses’

Jacques, Billeaud, AP, January 15, 2008

State officials are picking new targets in their efforts to stop illegal immigration in Arizona: the “drop houses” where human smugglers hold customers until they pay up.

Gov. Janet Napolitano, addressing the opening day of the Legislature on Monday, said the state should go after property managers who knowingly rent homes to smugglers.

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Napolitano posted an executive order Monday that lets state real estate regulators and state police share information on drop houses so they can prepare reports and make recommendations on the problem.

Smugglers store customers in drop houses while they collect their fees and make their travel arrangements. The locations host some of the worst abuses in immigrant smuggling, such as assaults, rapes and hostage-takings. Some smugglers force their way into drop houses to kidnap rival traffickers for ransom.

The Phoenix metropolitan area is believed to have about 1,000 drop houses.

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