U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has uncovered a massive tunnel Mexican cartels created to smuggle drugs and possibly human beings from Mexico into the United States. Authorities are describing the tunnel as “an elaborate cross border tunnel.”
The tunnel stretched from a warehouse in Tijuana, Mexico to a building in a San Diego, California industrial park. It was complete with its own electric rail system, lighting, and ventilation systems. Authorities describe the tunnel as “the most sophisticated tunnel discovered along the border in two years,” and it stretched six football fields in length.
In a rare move, the U.S. Attorney’s Office directly blamed Mexican cartels for the operation. “The cartels have spent years and tens of millions of dollars trying in vain to create an underworld of secret passageways to move huge quantities of drugs at will,” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy, the head of the office prosecuting the case.
The U.S./Mexico border is wide open for much of its nearly 2,000 miles, and U.S. Border Patrol Agents have spoken out publicly through their union, the National Border Patrol Council, on the obstacles they face in trying to secure the border. However, the open nature of such border crossings allows only trickles of drug smuggling and human trafficking in comparison to the large scale single shipments that a tunnel such as this makes possible. There have also been recent cases of U.S. law enforcement accused of receiving payments to allow such shipments to cross the U.S./Mexico border.
Such tunnels are also a grave concern in the realm of national security and terrorism. In 2012, the United Nations (UN) acknowledged that individuals from known terror states and regions, including the Horn of Africa, were traveling to Central America and then following the same paths and networks as illegal immigrants from Central America and Mexico to illegally enter the U.S.
According to ICE, this particular tunnel was found by pure chance by one police officer doing his or her duty. The officer pulled over a truck in San Diego for traffic violations and realized the vehicle contained three tons of marijuana. After this initial chance encounter, investigators began monitoring the area. Days later, they executed search warrants on two warehouses and found both the tunnel and a storage building for what came through the tunnel from Mexico. In addition to 17,292 pounds of marijuana, U.S. authorities also seized 325 pounds of cocaine.
This tunnel was the eighth large scale tunnel discovered in the San Diego area alone since 2006. A reported 75 cross-border tunnels have been detected by U.S. authorities in total.