American Border Patrol agents discovered a cross-border tunnel that started in the Mexican side of Nogales and entered the United States.
The entry point was submerged underwater along an international waterway channel that was built below both cities of Nogales; the tunnel was adjacent to the Port of Nogales and came to a stop beneath a parking lot in Nogales, Arizona.
“At approximately 50 feet in length, the tunnel extended 44 feet into the United States and was two feet wide by two feet tall. Within the tunnel, agents discovered structural shoring and digging tools, which indicate excavation was still in progress and incomplete,” the agency stated.
“Agents will continue to monitor and inspect the incomplete tunnel until it is properly secured and remediated with concrete filler.”
Police believe the tunnel may have been used to smuggle migrants as well as drugs into the US from Mexico.
The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) says at least 250 drug tunnels have been built connecting the Mexican state of Sonora with the US state of Arizona – most of them in the Nogales area – since 1990.
It refers to the criminals who use the illicit underground passageways – which often connect to the combined sewage system which runs underneath the border – as ‘tunnel rats’.
Tunnels Under Border
The exact number of tunnels is unknown but some figures exist indicating there have been hundreds dug and found over the years.
Since the early 1990s, an average of two completed cross-border tunnels has been discovered by law enforcement officers every year, according to High Country News, with nearly 200 tunnels found in total, many incomplete.
Lance Lenoir, the head of the five-member Tunnel Rats team, described many of them as primitive and not sophisticated.
“I would not want to give our enemies that kind of credit,” he said. “The only thing that’s of note when it comes to these tunnels in San Diego is their persistence and audacity.”
The tunnels are used to smuggle illegal immigrants into the United States, in addition to drugs.
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the first large-scale cross-border tunnel was discovered in Douglas, Arizona, on May 17, 1990. The tunnel, which stretched about 300 feet to Agua Prieta, Sonora, into a house in Mexico where the entrance was hidden by a cover that was under a pool table.
The cover was opened by turning the water on at an outdoor spigot; a hydraulic pump system forced a section of the floor to rise about eight feet. The tunnel was equipped with a rail system for carts and lights.
Several other major tunnels were found in the ’90s, the outlet said, but things really started ramping up in the 2000s, with the number of tunnels being discovered increasing dramatically.