Officials have found what was described as a “sophisticated” cross-border tunnel likely designed for drug smuggling between the US and Mexico, that included a rail system and a solar system to provide ventilation and lighting.
Agents from the US Border Patrol, Homeland Security Investigations and the Drug Enforcement Administration, measured that the tunnel reached 336 ft into California. It did not yet have an exit.
Officials said the Mexican side of the tunnel was first discovered by Mexican State Police, Policia Estatal Preventiva and Mexican military forces while conducting an operation in the Mexican border town of Jacume. The operation on September 19 focussed on a residence located 221 feet south of the United States-Mexico international boundary, officials said.
US agents determined that the tunnel’s entry point included a shaft that was approximately 31 feet deep, with a total length of 627 feet, of which 336 feet were inside the United States.
Agents reached an exit shaft that went approximately 15 feet up towards the surface, but did not yet have a an exit point into the US.
A statement by US Border Patrol said agents found a solar panel system that had been used to run the electrical, lighting and ventilation systems in the tunnel.
There were also two sump-pump systems inside the tunnel to pump out any water. Agents also found a rail system was installed that ran the entire length of the tunnel.
It is not clear whether the Mexican authorities made any arrests in during the the raid on the residence.
US officials said they suspected the still-incomplete tunnel was intended to drug smuggling, based on its size and level of technology.
Border Patrol Agent Tekae Michael told the Los Angeles Times: “Sophisticated tunnels take a lot of time and money to make. When we find them, they’re a pretty big deal.”
Local media reported that in the fiscal year of 2018, which ended on September 30, Border Patrol officials found two tunnels in the San Diego sector. Warehouses near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry are a frequent ending point for tunnels, it said.
In August 2017, agents found a tunnel that emerged among weeds in a vacant area near Otay Mesa after 30 people, most of them from China and some from Mexico, were discovered coming out of it.
Officials said once investigations are completed, tunnels are typically filled in to precent smugglers returning to make use of them at a later stage.