As the Senate prepares for an intense debate over immigration policy expected consume the next two weeks, lawmakers will consider bills that could legalize illegal aliens who have not only have trespassed across the U.S. border, but have tunneled under it.
On January 24 a half-mile long tunnel from Tijuana to a secret entrance inside warehouse disguised as a distribution company in San Diego was discovered by border officials.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.) toured the tunnel and said, “What I found was amazing: a sophisticated tunnel, with lights, ventilation, pumps and a concrete floor. On the Mexican side, 2,000 pounds of marijuana was found, and on the American side 300 pounds was found.”
The San Diego tunnel at its deepest point was more than nine stories below ground, was equipped with a groundwater drainage system, cement flooring for traction, lighting and a pulley system.
Even more alarming is the fact that this tunnel isn’t the first. Since Sept. 11, 2001, 40 cross-border tunnels have been found, all except one created from the other side of the Mexican border.
At a press conference on February 21 to introduce legislation to criminalize those who construct or finance border tunnels Feinstein’s press secretary distributed a 16-page summary of the 40 border tunnels that have been found based on information from the Drug Enforcement Administration, Joint Task Force North, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and news accounts.
Nineteen of the tunnels were categorized as “sophisticated” (indicating that they had structural support and could include electricity and ventilation) and mostly used to smuggle narcotics.
The estimated costs for constructing the Calexico Tunnel found Sept. 12, 2003, a “sophisticated” tunnel suspected of being used to smuggle drugs and immigrants was $400,000. The uncompleted construction was found by a utility crew digging trenches in the area and began about 50-yards south of the border under an automotive repair shop with a planned exit inside a garage in Calexico. It was more than 4-feet high and 2-feet wide and was equipped with lighting and ventilation.
Sen. Jon Kyl (R.-Ariz.) told reporters, “These—these tunnels in Arizona have been known for years” and addressed the growing violence at U.S. borders. “In our hearing this morning, we did have testimony about the increasing violence and criminality at our border. One of the reasons that they testified was because of the value of their cargo: both contraband, primarily drugs and human cargo. And that’s what the smugglers call it. There’s a lot of value in that. And because there is, they use increasing degrees of violence to protect the value that they have in these illegal activities.”
Legislation to criminalize the construction and financing of cross-border tunnels has been introduced by Feinstein and Kyl and co-sponsored by a bipartisan group that includes Sen. Barbara Boxer (D.-Calif,), Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.), Maria Cantwell (D.-Wash.), and Pete Domenici (R.-N.M.). A similar bill was sponsored in the House by Reps. David Dreier (R-.Calif.), Adam Schiff (D.-Calif.), Duncan Hunter (R.-Calif), Susan Davis (R.-Calif.) and Elton Gallegly (R.-Calif.). But the real question looming over Capitol Hill is whether these lawmakers and their colleagues will grant amnesty to those who have already crossed.