Highly sophisticated Mexico-U.S. border tunnel discovered in Arizona

Authorities said the tunnel found stretching from Mexico to Arizona appears to be the most sophisticated in U.S. history

Highly sophisticated Mexico-U.S. border tunnel discovered in Arizona
English 07/08/2020 15:22 AP Mexico Astrid Galván Actualizada 15:26
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An incomplete tunnel found stretching from Mexico to Arizona appears to be “the most sophisticated tunnel in U.S. history,” authorities said.

The tunnel intended for smuggling ran from a neighborhood in San Luis Río Colorado, Mexico, to San Luis, Arizona, where it stopped short of reaching the surface. It was built in an area that is not conducive to tunnels because of the terrain, and it had a ventilation system, water lines, electrical wiring, a rail system, and extensive reinforcement, federal officials say.

“What makes this one unique is that the terrain in Yuma is very hard... the sand is very loose, and most of them end up caving. So the fact that the material was very well built and it had ventilation, it had water, it had a rail system with walls, roof, floor, electrical, makes this one a very unique type of tunnel,” said Angel Ortiz, assistant special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations in Yuma. HSI is a division of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“This appears to be the most sophisticated tunnel in U.S. history, and certainly the most sophisticated I’ve seen in my career,” said Carl E. Landrum, acting chief patrol agent with the Border Patrol’s Yuma Sector.

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Homeland Security Investigations started excavating around the tunnel in late July after someone reported a sinkhole near the border wall. HSI already had reports of potential tunnel activity in that area already, and the agency began drilling, Ortiz said. A camera was sent 7.6 meters underground, and the tunnel was discovered on Tuesday.

The tunnel measured about 1 meter wide and 1.2 meters high.

Investigators do not know what exactly the tunnel would have been used for, since it was incomplete. They also do not know how long it had been there, because they do not know what kind of equipment was used to build it. If it was done by hand, it would be many months of construction to get as far as it did, Ortiz said. But if the builders used heavy machinery it would “potentially a few months, not that long of a period,” Ortiz said.

Smugglers have been using tunnels to get drugs and people across the border for decades.

Two years ago, authorities in Yuma discovered a sophisticated drug-smuggling tunnel that went from a home in Mexico to an abandoned fast-food restaurant in Arizona.

HSI said the tunnel ran from Mexico to an old Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant that is not in operation in San Luis, Arizona, just about 180 meters north of the border.

The owner, Iván López, was arrested on August 13, 2018, after authorities found several packages of methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl in the back of his truck.

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That arrest led to a search at his home and the old restaurant, where agents found a hidden tunnel that was large enough for people to freely walk through.

López pleaded guilty to one count of using a tunnel or passage to smuggle controlled substances and was sentenced to seven years in prison, according to court records.

HSI continues to investigate the tunnel found Tuesday.

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