Many of the tunnels dug by drug cartels and people smugglers underneath the U.S.–Mexican border prior to 2007, and supposedly sealed to prevent reuse, have been brought back into service and are being used once again, it has emerged.
At least six previously discovered border tunnels have been reactivated by Mexican trafficking groups. Since 2006, at least 148 tunnels were built, according to official figures.
The tunnels—which were closed up from the U.S. side, but ineffectually sealed from the Mexican side because of a lack of money and general Second World chaos—appear to be back in business, according to U.S. and Mexican law enforcement officials.
The reopening of the tunnels is also being facilitated by the fact that the population on both sides of the border in California and Arizona are now largely Mexican, following a marked increase in legal and illegal immigration over the past ten years.
According to reports, the tunnels are able to be brought back into use because Mexican authorities—unlike those on the American side—do not fill the tunnels with concrete once they have been discovered.
On the Mexican side, the tunnel entrances are sealed, but this allows the cartels to dig new entry points to the largely intact subterranean passageways leading to the U.S. border.
Now an estimated 20 large tunnels, constructed before and after 2007, remain largely intact on the Mexican side, according to U.S. and Mexican officials.
The L.A. Times said that the biggest underground threats now come from what border officials refer to as “super tunnels,” which cost millions of dollars to dig and feature built-in lighting, ventilation systems, and wood-beamed passageways.
Most of these have been constructed in San Diego’s Otay Mesa region, which borders directly onto the Mexican city of Tijuana.
These super tunnels need only extend 1,000 feet or so to cross into the U.S. They are started in a building on the Mexican side of the border, and go to another building on the U.S. side of the border. Both buildings are under the control of Mexican gangs.
In recent years, traffickers have reactivated or tried to reactivate at least five tunnels in the Otay Mesa area, most recently last month near Tijuana’s international airport.
Two more tunnels have seen resumed activity under the Mexicali–Calexico border, 100 miles east of San Diego, according to Homeland Security investigations.