Cartels revive closed tunnels along the U.S.-mexico border

This Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015 photo released by the mexican Federal Police shows an underground tunnel, which police say was built for smuggling drugs from Tijuana, Mexico to San Diego in the United States. Mexican federal police said that the tunnel stretches for more than 2,600 feet (800 meters) and is illuminated, ventilated and equipped with a rail car system, and lined with metal beams to prevent collapse. (Mexico Federal Police via AP)

While Mexico officials and the incoming President, Donald Trump fight about a wall, cartels will find plenty of opportunities to smuggle drugs under the ground.

A plan of the United States and Mexico to shut down tunnels that the cartels used along the borders to smuggling is not if criminals have found ways to cut them out again, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The reason is because, while the United States sealed the entire section of the tunnels on its side of the border, in Mexico sealed only the side openings for the citing of a lack of finance.

Proponents of a strict border security say that more needs to be done, by Mexico and the U.S.-Mexico joint effort, to beat back the cartels.

“It would be nice to have the full cooperation of the Mexican government,” said Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, which pushes for stricter immigration enforcement. “If they don’t completely fill the tunnels, then maybe they could adequately police them.”

“Of course there is no guarantee that nothing’s going on,” Mehlman said “But you do your best to make it as difficult as possible for them, you raise your bet, you increase their” cost of the reconstruction of the tunnels and smuggling.

On the AMERICAN side, drug tunnels are filled with concrete since 2007, after the Los Angeles Times reported that they were left unfilled due to budgetary constraints within Customs and Border Protection.

Since 2007, it took Customs and Border Protection of $8.7 million to replenish drug tunnels, according to a 2016 report of the Department of Homeland Security.

An estimated 20 large tunnels, built before and after 2007 are largely intact on the Mexican side, officials told the newspaper.

If the US government had a tighter control of illegal immigration, some experts say, it would have more resources to focus on business as the cartel operations along the border and national security.

“They need to cut off the magnets that draw illegal economic migrants,” Mehlman said, “so that we can focus our resources on stopping people who pose a real threat to the country.

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, which also favors strict immigration enforcement, agreed.

Vaughan says that the U.S. is an attack of the cartel, the largest source of finance, and human trafficking.

“As long as people think that they could reach the United States, they keep the pay of the cartels to do it,” she said, adding that stopping such cross-border enforcement strategies such as “catch and release” would be a step in the direction of toil, on the demand by immigrants for smugglers.

“Our lax immigration policy, our sanctuary policy, and the inability to make progress on the drug abuse problems in the US have enriched with the cartels to begin with,” Vaughan said. “They make so much money smuggling through the border.”

The U.S. government, efforts will be focused on the filling of large tunnels in the run-up to the border after the U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) called them “the national security is in danger,” the Times stated.

Even then, however, some AMERICAN authorities predicted that the traders would try to make the tunnels useable again, and suggested that the U.S. government pay Mexico is the filling of the tunnels – something that hasn’t happened.

The mexican authorities say they do not have the money to the complete filling of the tunnels, some of which are equipped with ventilation and rail systems to knock contraband hundreds of metres below the rim. Only the tunnel openings are closed south of the border.

Which allows traders simply digging a new entrance to the largely intact subterranean corridors to the US.

A smugglers’ tunnel that had closed, but on the left not on the Mexican side was found to be back in operation in December, the Times reported Sunday. Traders have again tried to activate at least four other tunnels in the past few years, most recently in the last month near the Tijuana airport.

“The biggest threat is that it’s a big open invitation for drug traffickers, and it definitely be taken advantage of,” said Michael Unzueta, a former special agent in the costs of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Diego, over time.

Border and the drug war analyst Sylvia Longmire said “as long as there’s a demand for drugs in this country,” cartels will be creative about how to get around border walls and barriers for tunnels.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Elizabeth Llorente is a Senior Reporter for and can be reached at Follow her on


Follow us

Don't be shy, get in touch. We love meeting interesting people and making new friends.

Most popular