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Mexican Police Unearth Smuggling Tunnel in Mexicali

Baja California police have discovered a sophisticated smuggling tunnel about 120 miles east of San Diego in the Mexican border town Mexicali. Authorities say organized crime groups planned to sneak d

Mexican Police Unearth Smuggling Tunnel in Mexicali

Baja California police have discovered a sophisticated smuggling tunnel about 120 miles east of San Diego in the Mexican border town Mexicali. Authorities say organized crime groups planned to sneak drugs, people and weapons through the tunnel. KPBS Reporter Amy Isackson has the story.

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The entrance in Mexico is inside a home in an upper middle class Mexicali neighborhood.

The tunnel dips about 20 feet underground and then heads straight north, under a hospital, to the United States.

Authorities say the tunnel dead ends about 120 feet shy of the international line.

Agustin Perez is a state police spokesman in Baja. He says the tunnel is like a piece of engineering art.

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Agustin Perez: The tunnel has an air conditioning system, ventilation system, light, electric power and an elevator.

Police arrested 8 people at the house. They say two were cooking lunch for the alleged diggers.

About 70 tunnels have been discovered under the US Mexico border during the last seven years. Tougher border enforcement has literally pushed some smugglers underground.

Amy Isackson, KPBS News.

Dig Deeper: More Tunnel Details

  • The eight men police arrested told investigators a group of masked men would arrive at the house weekly. The workers say the masked men would pay them and they never saw their faces.
  • The house where the tunnel was unearthed was like a tunnel digging factory, according to Baja California law enforcement authorities. They say the kitchen was stocked with enormous amounts of food. Mattresses were strewn on the floor and digging tools were all over.
  • Authorities say the tunnel was about 3 and a half feet tall and wide. They say it was equipped with railroad tracks in addition to air conditioning, lights and an electric lift.
  • Police say the eight people they arrested were allegedly hired in Tijuana to dig the tunnel. Authorities say the men had extensive knowledge of how to build a tunnel and may have dug one before.
  • In 2005, authorities uncovered a tunnel in Mexical outfitted with a ventilation system, phone line and video surveillance equipment.
  • U.S. and Mexican authorities have discovered six sophisticated tunnels in Mexicali since 2003. They’ve unearthed at least 75 tunnels since the early 1990’s, the majority crude passageways often called “gopher holes”.
  • Railroad tracks were laid the length of a sophisticated tunnel discovered in Tecate in 2002. That tunnel began in the fireplace of a Tecate ranch house, plunged under the border and popped up nearly 900 feet north inside a home in eastern San Diego.
  • U.S. federal authorities say they’ve found one tunnel under the Canadian border during the last 18 years.
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