Number of drug-smuggling tunnels rise with increased border security

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) office claims that a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is unlikely to reduce the threat of Mexican drug cartels smuggling drugs into the U.S. through illegal tunnels.

“Illegal tunneling activity on the southwest border of the United States represents a significant and persistent threat to border security and will likely remain so in the near future,” the HIS office contended in a 2010 report that became public April 3, 2017.

Posted by the Government Attic website, the report noted that “The rise in illegal tunneling is likely a response to increasingly heightened border security.”

Lance LeNoir, supervisor of the U.S. Border Patrol Entry Team in San Diego, told The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group that there is little data on tunnels dug since 2010, but there is consensus that the number has increased.

A 2012 report by the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General (IG) labeled illegal tunnels “a significant homeland security vulnerability.” The report revealed that “law enforcement has recovered approximately 169,000 pounds of narcotics, valued at more than $200 million, from drug traffickers using tunnels.”

“Tunnel activity has been on the rise since the first reported discovery in 1990, though the trend has accelerated since 2006,” the HSI report said.

Before 1999, only four tunnels were discovered, but the number slowly rose prior to reaching a high of 17 in 2006—more than twice the number found in 2005. Twenty-five were found in 2009, and 23 in 2010. As of 2010, federal officials had found 146 tunnels.

The rise in the number of tunnels coincided with the Secure Fence Act of 2006, a law authorizing up to 700 miles of fencing along the border, and Operation Jump Start, which added to the number and powers of law enforcement.

“The success of Operation Jump Start, the newly created border fencing and subsequent elevation in Border Patrol agent levels may have caused [transnational criminal organizations] to seek alternative methods for transporting drugs across the U.S./Mexico border,” the HSI report said. “It is possible that the simultaneous rise in tunneling activity during this time period was the result of heightened border security.”

The Daily Caller reports that “the tunnels are highly sophisticated and difficult to detect. Entrances are typically found in covered shelters, such as warehouses, and can have their own lighting and ventilation or may connect to existing underground infrastructure, like sewers.”

A nearly half-mile-long tunnel was found in 2010 that was 90 feet deep, with an estimated cost of $1 million and likely took over a year to construct.

Traffickers are currently using a drill to dig tunnels as narrow as six inches to transport drugs, presenting even more of a challenge for federal agents since effective tunnel-detecting technology is not available.

Even so, there is hope that President Trump’s proposed border wall will provide a deterrent to many drug smugglers.

“I think that a wall is definitely going to help,” CBP officer and president of the Arizona chapter employee union Patricia Cramer said. “It’ll make it a lot harder on [drug traffickers]. I haven’t met one officer that isn’t for it. The wall we have now is a joke.”

H/T: The Daily Caller

 

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