U.S. Border Patrol authorities have discovered the longest smuggling tunnel ever found along the Southwestern border.
The tunnel, which starts in Tijuana, Mexico, was first found in August 2019 and extends 4,309 feet– just over 3/4 of a mile, according to a news release issued Wednesday.
The tunnel previously classified as the longest smuggling tunnel found in the U.S. was discovered in San Diego in 2014, measuring 2,966 feet long.
“While subterranean tunnels are not a new occurrence along the California-Mexico border, the sophistication and length of this particular tunnel demonstrates the time-consuming efforts transnational criminal organizations will undertake to facilitate cross-border smuggling,” said Cardell Morant, Acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations San Diego.
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The tunnel is about 5 and a half feet tall and 2 feet wide, located at an average of 70 feet below the surface. According to the news release, it features an “extensive rail/cart system, forced air ventilation, high voltage electrical cables and panels, an elevator at the tunnel entrance, and a complex drainage system.”
Mexican law enforcement discovered the entrance, which was concealed by a small industrial building. The San Diego Tunnel Task Force then started mapping out the tunnel from Mexico.
The tunnel only runs under 241 feet of Mexican territory, extending for 4,068 ft. into the United States. An offshoot of the tunnel was also discovered around 3,529 feet into the U.S. side of the border, but it only extended for a few extra feet.
The main section of the tunnel continued on for about the length of city block, where agents discovered hundreds of sandbags that were blocking what they suspected was a former tunnel opening in the Otay Mesa warehouse district in California.
The discovery was made possible by the collaboration of multiple government agencies, including the U.S. Attorney’s Office, United States Border Patrol and Drug Enforcement Administration.
It took months of investigations and law enforcement efforts to finally discover the tunnel’s location.
“Collaborative investigations and community outreach are key to combating this type of threat,” Morant said.
According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection news release, there have been no arrests or seizures made as a result of the tunnel discovery.
Deputy Chief Patrol Agent Aaron M. Heitke says that investigations will continue. He voiced his confidence that the team’s dedication to the law and all of their hard work will lead to seizures and arrests in the future.
“I am thrilled that this high level narco-tunnel has been discovered and will be rendered unusable for cross-border smuggling,” Heitke said. “I am proud of the tremendous efforts of the Tunnel Task Force and our agents.”
Threats like these are what’s driving President Donald Trump to tighten security at the border. His efforts have proven fruitful, as U.S. Border Patrol has reported that the number of apprehensions made per month has dropped to nearly half since the wall has gone up.
However, authorities said that cartels are still doing everything they can to work around new barriers put in place.
“As efforts to strengthen security on our Southern border increase, Mexican drug cartels are forced underground to smuggle their deadly drugs into the United States,” DEA Special Agent in Charge John Callery said.
“The sophistication of this tunnel demonstrates the determination and monetary resources of the cartels.”
Nevertheless, the San Diego Tunnel Task Force has promised not to give up in order to keep the border secure and the country safe.
“Although the cartels will continue to use their resources to try and breach our border, the DEA and our partners on the Tunnel Task Force will continue to use our resources to ensure they fail, that our border is secure, and that tunnels like this are shut down to stem the flow of deadly drugs entering the United States,” Callery stated.
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