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Border & Immigration

U.S. Customs Leader Calls Tunnel-Plugging a Bi-National Effort

U.S. Customs Leader Calls Tunnel-Plugging a Bi-National Effort

Work crews in Otay Mesa have begun sealing the longest and one of the most sophisticated tunnels ever discovered under the U.S.-Mexico border. Federal authorities will fill in this tunnel and seven others along the Southwest border. KPBS reporter Amy Isackson has the story.

Workers directed concrete from mixer trucks into holes they'd drilled in the middle of a field. Those holes tapped into the once clandestine passageway.

It was discovered in January 2006 inside a fruit distribution warehouse next door.

From the back office, the tunnel plunged 85 feet underground and surfaced a half-mile away inside a metal shed in Tijuana.

The Arellano-Felix Cartel used it to smuggle drugs into the United States.

Frank Marwood, who heads Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Tunnel Task Force, says he's still amazed by tunnel's ingenuity.

Marwood : Today we're also pretty amazed because for the very first time, we also have an infrastructure in place for the systematic approach to filling these tunnels.

Federal authorities have $2.7 million to work with.

They estimate it'll cost more than $700,000 and take and 100 truckloads of concrete to fill this fist tunnel up to the border fence.

Then work crews will move onto the other tunnels in Otay Mesa, Calexico, and Nogales, Arizona.

It’s not clear how the tunnels are being plugged across the border in Mexico.

Marwood says if officials there wanted help:

Marwood : In methodology, how we're doing this, why we're doing this, and the manner we are, then clearly we would provide that with them because we do believe this is a bi-national effort.

Marwood says as far as he knows, Mexico hasn't called. However, there may be more chances for cross-border collaboration in the future.

While Marwood says he doesn't think there's a tunnel superhighway underground, he says he'd be astounded if there aren't other tunnels down there.

Amy Isackson, KPBS News.