It's terrifying to live next door to homes filled with human traffickers, drug smugglers, AK-47s, pit bulls, and desperate laborers stuffed 30 to a room, shoes removed to hinder escape. During a month's reporting with police and other law-enforcement agents in Arizona last year, I met many scared people. One man who lived next to a "drop house" for Mexican workers slept with two guns under his bed, his children not allowed to play in the backyard. The sound of gunshots was not uncommon. "Four years ago this neighborhood was poodles and old ladies," he said, too frightened to give his name. "Now it's absolutely insane." That morning, authorities had raided the drop house. When the neighbor told me how his kids had been evacuated behind riot shields, he began to cry. Others, too, were unhappy: the undocumented workers taken from the house were exhausted, sweaty, and dead quiet as they sat on a curb with their hands cuffed, waiting to be taken away.
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