July 8, 2004
PEGGY PEATTIE / Union-Tribune
A Mexican federal investigator
examined the ladder that descended about 25 feet into a border
tunnel discovered yesterday by contractors working for the
Border Patrol. The tunnel started in the same Mexican house
where a drug-smuggling passage was found last year.
Authorities discovered another illegal tunnel connecting
Tijuana and San Ysidro yesterday, this one originating in the same
Mexican house where a sophisticated drug-smuggling tunnel was
found last year.
The discovery, about 1:30 p.m., came after contractors working
for the Border Patrol began digging on a narrow road along the
border fence at a spot where it dipped slightly, about 200 yards
from the San Ysidro border crossing.
The digging was prompted by the discovery Friday of another
makeshift tunnel beneath the road.
Smugglers for years have used cross-border tunnels to transport
drugs and people.
It was unclear last night how far into the United States the
tunnel found yesterday runs or what it might be used for.
Mexican authorities were surprised to find that the tunnel
originated at the same opening in the same building they raided
The building had been locked up at the time to prevent more
tunneling, but the locks weren't in place yesterday when Mexican
authorities walked inside.
A Drug Enforcement Administration agent said workers had not
yet filled in the tunnel found last year because of engineering
Agent Mark Pothier said the tunnel found yesterday appeared to
be from new digging. Nobody was in the house, and the agents did
not find any drug paraphernalia.
A Border Patrol agent said the tunnel, about 3 feet below the
road, was lined with a 36-inch-diameter plastic pipe and had a
lighting system. The lights were not on when the agents pierced
The lighting system was plugged into an outlet at the Mexican
house, but power there had been cut off.
The tunnel discovered Friday didn't have any reinforcement, was
just a few inches below the road and ran from a hole under a
mattress in a vacant Mexican junkyard to a cement levee about 10
feet inside the United States.
Fourteen tunnels ľ including this newest one ľ have been
discovered on the U.S.-Mexican border since the Sept. 11, 2001,
attacks when the government stepped up border enforcement.
The tunnels are being found much more often than between 1990
and 2001, when 15 tunnels were found.
"We are seeing a trend," said Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman for
Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The tunnel found in April 2003 was near where agents found a
truck loaded with 3,300 pounds of marijuana. The truck had a hole
built into the bottom.
That tunnel, about 3 feet wide with an electrical wiring system
and walls made of plastic tubing and wood, ran from the rented
house to a border parking lot used by tourists who walk into
Three people were convicted in that case, one in Mexico and two
in the United States. Officials suspect that tunnel was the work
of one of Baja California's drug cartels.
Yesterday afternoon, investigators were looking around near the
spot where that tunnel ended.