Mexican officials discovered a sophisticated cross-border tunnel that began in a home in the town of Jacume less than a football field away from the U.S. border.
A team made up of members of the U.S. Border Patrol, Homeland Security Investigations and the Drug Enforcement Administration determined that the tunnel did not yet have an exit into the U.S., though it did cross the border.
Officials mapped the tunnel and found that it reached 336 feet into California in the Jacumba area, according to a news release from the Border Patrol.
Based on the tunnel’s size and technology used, Border Patrol Agent Tekae Michael said it was likely intended to transport drugs into the U.S.
“Sophisticated tunnels take a lot of time and money to make,” Michael said, and they’re not uncommon in the area. “When we find them, they’re a pretty big deal.”
A rail system ran the entire length of the tunnel, and a solar panel system powered lighting and ventilation, according to the Border Patrol. It also had systems to pump out water.
The shaft at the tunnel’s entry was about 31 feet deep. The unfinished exit shaft went up about 15 feet but did not break the surface.
The tunnel averaged about 3 feet tall and 2½ feet wide, and was 627 feet long.
Mexican police and military forces found the tunnel’s entrance during an operation in mid-September. Mexican officials worked with the team of U.S. agencies to explore the tunnel. The team reached the tunnel’s end on Thursday.
In fiscal 2018, which ended on Sept. 30, Border Patrol officials found two tunnels in the San Diego sector, Michael said. Warehouses near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry are a frequent ending point for tunnels.
In August 2017, Border Patrol agents found a tunnel that emerged among weeds in a vacant area near Otay Mesa after 30 people, most from China and a few from Mexico, appeared out of it early one morning.
The new tunnel is the first one to be discovered in fiscal 2019.
Michael was unsure whether Mexican officials have made arrests in the case. No arrests have been made on the U.S. side, but the tunnel is still under investigation, Michael said.
According to Border Patrol Agent Vincent Pirro, once tunnel investigations are complete, agents generally fill in the tunnels so that smugglers can no longer use them.
Morrissey writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.