OTAY MESA–U.S. Border Patrol agents at the 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.
At around 1:12 a.m., Border Patrol agents encountered several people who had apparently just been smuggled into the U.S. Agents searched the area and discovered a crude opening in the ground with a ladder inside and determined that is 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.
The 30 people are now in Border Patrol custody pending further questioning. There were a total of 23 Chinese nationals, 21 men, two woman, and seven Mexican nationals, 4 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), are currently 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.
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 it appears this latest tunnel may be an extension of an incomplete tunnel previously discovered and seized by Mexican authorities.