Federal investigators discover human smuggling operation at West Side home

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Newly released court documents detail a disturbing discovery for federal investigators in Albuquerque.

Investigators are calling it a human smuggling operation that was busted just a block away from a local elementary school. 

Before the sun came up on Sept. 27, federal agents stormed a small two-story home near Bridge and Central.

Inside, they found a bag of blue pills that agents believed to be fentanyl, a gun with ammo, 29 undocumented migrants, and 34-year-old Edwin Efrain Padilla.

The move came after weeks of agents keeping a close eye on the home – watching multiple vehicles coming and going, dropping off dozens of people.

Homeland Security agents say a source gave a tip in August that 30 to 40 migrants from Mexico and Guatemala were inside.

The source said they had to help a young woman and older man bathe and get dressed because they were too sick to care for themselves. The source also said they couldn’t get medical care and barely had enough food and water to stay alive.

“It’s unfortunate that these individuals have to defer to these alternative ways of migration,” said Flaviano Graciano, communications manager of the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center. “The desperation of those fleeing and trying to come to the U.S., many will, and have, become victims of human trafficking and cartels.”

Graciano says this is a growing problem, especially in New Mexico and Texas.

“A clear example happened this past June in San Antonio, where more than 50 migrants lost their lives in the back of a sweltering truck, because they were just left there to die basically,” said Graciano. “We have laws to protect asylum seekers and victims of trafficking and crime.”

Graciano says they should be eligible for certain visas depending on their situation, have access to medical care, as well as help file criminal reports for any forced labor or prostitution.

“Our immigration policies need to shift so that we can start welcoming these migrants with dignity again,” Graciano said. 

The man at the center of this case, Edwin Efrain Padilla, is already a convicted felon and was suspected of smuggling a dozen Guatemalan nationals into the U.S. last year.

Padilla faces multiple charges in this investigation including human smuggling and fentanyl distribution.