Longest-ever illicit smuggling tunnel found on U.S.-Mexico border

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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VIDEO: Longest-ever illicit smuggling tunnel found on U.S.-Mexico border

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials in San Diego have uncovered a nearly mile-long illicit smuggling tunnel between the U.S. and Mexico, the longest tunnel of its kind ever discovered, officials said Wednesday.

The tunnel, which spans 4,309 feet, was first discovered in August 2019, officials said. It begins in an industrial area in Tijuana, Mexico, about 1/2-mile west of the Otay Mesa Port of Entry, and stretches north for nearly 3/4 of a mile into the U.S., according to authorities.

“While subterranean tunnels are not a new occurrence along the California-Mexico border, the sophistication and length of this particular tunnel demonstrates the time-consuming efforts transnational criminal organizations will undertake to facilitate cross-border smuggling,” Cardell T. Morant, acting special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations San Diego, said Wednesday in a statement.

Officials said the tunnel was outfitted with an extensive rail system, forced air ventilation, electricity, a complex drainage system and even an elevator to shuttle people to and from the tunnel's entrance. John W Callery, a special agent in charge for the Drug Enforcement Agency, said the sophistication of the tunnel showcased the "determination and monetary resources of the cartels."

"As efforts to strengthen security on our Southern Border increase, Mexican drug cartels are being forced underground to smuggle their deadly drugs into the United States," he said.

Authorities said the tunnel is about 5 ½ feet tall and 2 feet wide. Its exit was discovered in the warehouse district of Otay Mesa, California, blocked by several hundred sandbags, according to CBP. A separate offshoot of the tunnel extended 3,539 feet from the main passage, but didn’t breach the surface, officials said.

No arrests were immediately made in connection to the discovery. Authorities continue to investigate.

The tunnel is the longest of its kind ever found on the border. Previously, the longest tunnel had been a 2,966-foot one discovered in 2014 in San Diego, according to CBP.