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International Cooperation Leads to Arizona Tunnel Discovery

Release Date: 
May 10, 2011

Tucson, Ariz. - On May 5, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, working in collaboration with the government of Mexico confirmed the existence of an illicit tunnel in Nogales, Ariz. Evidence of a tunnel was initially discovered by Border Patrol agents in the U.S. on May 2, prompting further inspection of the area.

The tunnel found in Nogales, Ariz., was particularly sophisticated, having been chiseled out of solid rock and containing major infrastructure.

The tunnel found in Nogales, Ariz., was particularly sophisticated, having been chiseled out of solid rock and containing major infrastructure.

Through bi-national coordination between CBP's U.S. Border Patrol, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Mexican government, the origin of the tunnel was located inside an abandoned building in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.

The tunnel was found to be 15 feet below the surface and approximately 250 feet long. It measured three feet wide by five feet in height and contained electricity, water pumps and ventilation. Both governments are working to remediate the tunnel as soon as possible.

"This tunnel is more sophisticated than other recently discovered tunnels," stated Chief Patrol Agent Randy Hill. "They chiseled through solid rock and then installed electricity, lighting, water pumps, and ventilation. It is a prime example of the risks traffickers will take and the lengths they will go to smuggle contraband into our country."

Criminals installed a network of water pumps to keep the level of water in the cave low enough to pass through it.

Criminals installed a network of water pumps to keep the level of water in the cave low enough to pass through it.

Illicit tunneling attempts indicate that the combined efforts of CBP and the Mexican government to reduce illegal activity above ground are driving smugglers underground. The Border Patrol and Mexican authorities continue to cooperate and share information on smuggling trends. This bi-national collaboration assists the Border Patrol in denying, degrading, disrupting and dismantling smuggling organizations.

Since launching the Southwest Border Initiative in March 2009, the Department of Homeland Security under Secretary Janet Napolitano has engaged in an unprecedented effort to bring focus and intensity to Southwest border security, coupled with a reinvigorated, smart and effective approach to enforcing immigration laws in the interior of our country.

The Border Patrol welcomes assistance from the community. Report suspicious activity by calling toll free (1-877) 872-7435. All calls will be answered and will remain anonymous.

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017