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Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents rescued two young children who were being held hostage for ransom by a pair of immigrant smugglers, officials said.
The undercover operation took place on July 31 after the parents of the children contacted authorities in Mexico and the United States.
ICE officials said the parents had unsuccessfully attempted to enter the U.S. illegally with their children. They paid two smugglers, sisters in their mid-20s, to make a second attempt, ICE officials said. This time, the parents went in one vehicle and the children, 3-year-old boy and 2-year-old girl, went in another vehicle. Border agents caught the parents and sent them back to Mexico, but the children made it to the U.S., ICE Assistant Special Agent Dane Bowen said.
"They took the two small children in two separate vehicles. They had impostered documents for them and successfully brought them across the border," Bowen said.
The smugglers contacted the parents and told them that they would have to pay $7,000 to get their children back, and if they didn't pay, "there were others who would," Bowen said.
Bowen says the smugglers are sisters, both in their mid-20's, who were living in a mobile home in San Ysidro and are also undocumented immigrants. Bowen says the smugglers also told the parents if they wanted their children to be returned it would cost them $7,000 and if they didn't they "knew someone who did.".
ICE agents contacted the sisters and an agent posed as the toddlers' aunt. She set up a meeting with the women at a Best Western Motel in Chula Vista. When the women arrived and agents saw the two children were with them, they arrested the two women.
The suspects are Mireya Delores Enriques Velazquez and Miriam Enriques Velazquez. Officials said they live in a mobile home in San Ysidro and are illegal immigrants. The two women were arraigned Monday morning. They were charged with transportation of illegal immigrants and remain in custody in federal jail. Bowen said additional charges, including kidnapping, could be added later in the case.
The children were reunited with their parents and are currently in the United States.

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