Tunnel used for human smuggling discovered

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OTAY MESA – U.S. Border Patrol agents assigned to San Diego Sector discovered a cross-border smuggling tunnel early Saturday morning after they arrested 30 people who were in the country illegally near the Otay Mesa port of entry, according to a news release from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

At around 1:12 a.m., Border Patrol agents encountered several people who had apparently just been smuggled into the U.S. at around 1:12 a.m. Agents searched the area and discovered a crude opening in the ground with a ladder inside and determined that it was a smuggling tunnel. The tunnel’s exit is located just north of the secondary fence in the vicinity of the Otay Mesa port of entry said the release.

According to the news release, the 30 aliens are now in Border Patrol custody pending further questioning. There was a total of twenty-three Chinese nationals, twenty-one men, two women, and seven Mexican nationals, four men and three women.  Members of the San Diego Tunnel Task Force, led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), were on scene investigating.

While subterranean tunnels are not a new occurrence along the California-Mexico border, they are more commonly utilized by transnational criminal organizations to smuggle narcotics. However, as this case demonstrates, law enforcement has also identified instances where such tunnels were used to facilitate human smuggling said the release.

The probe into the newly discovered tunnel is ongoing and members of the San Diego Tunnel Task Force are coordinating closely with their law enforcement counterparts in Mexico on the investigation. Preliminarily reports say it appears this latest tunnel may be an extension of an incomplete tunnel previously discovered and seized by Mexican authorities, according to the release.