ICE agents converge on suspected drop house in W. Phoenix

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Undercover agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement took several people into custody at a suspected drop house in West Phoenix early Tuesday morning.

It's not clear what led agents to the home in the Alhambra neighborhood of 39th Avenue and Camelback Road, but ICE confirmed that they served a search warrant at about 7 a.m.

While official numbers and nationalities have not been released, aerial video from the scene showed several people being taken into custody.

A drop house is a place where illegal immigrants are held, often against their will, as they are being smuggled into the country.

"The drop houses are usually rented properties where coyotes, or human smugglers, stash immigrants while awaiting payments," explains the Arizona Department of Public Safety website. "Treatment of immigrants is generally very poor which may include food, water and medicine being withheld to the point of death."

In December, federal officials said the number of drop houses in Phoenix had decreased in the past four year, indicating that human smuggling in Arizona, like illegal immigration, was on the decline.

Created in 2003, ICE is the main investigative division of the Department of Homeland Security. With more than 20,000 employees in all 50 states plus 47 foreign countries, ICE is second largest investigative agency in the federal government.