HomeNewsBriefUS Congress Passes Law to Fight Narco-Tunnels Under Mexico Border
BRIEF

US Congress Passes Law to Fight Narco-Tunnels Under Mexico Border

US/MEXICO BORDER / 17 MAY 2012 BY CHRISTOPHER LOOFT EN

The US Congress has passed a bill to tighten penalties on building illicit tunnels under the border from Mexico, closing a loophole in previous legislation in an attempt to clamp down on this increasingly popular method of smuggling drugs, arms, and people.

The Border Tunnel Prevention Act of 2012 passed the House with over 400 votes, with four votes against. The press secretary of congressman Silvestre Reyes (D-El Paso), the bill's main sponsor, told InSight Crime it expands on a 2006 law criminalizing the construction of border tunnels, by allowing prosecutors to target those who conspire or attempt to build illegal tunnels. The secretary said the earlier law contained a "loophole" in that it could only be used to prosecute those who had successfully completed tunnels.

The law, pending approval by the Senate and a signature by the president, would also allow for wiretapping and asset seizures aimed at those who build and operate illegal tunnels.

InSight Crime Analysis

US authorities have reported a rise in the use of border tunnels to smuggle drugs, arms, and people under the southwest border with Mexico since the first illicit underground passageway was discovered in 1990. According to statistics quoted in the draft bill (see pdf) 149 illegal tunnels were discovered on the US-Mexico border between fiscal years 1990 and 2011, mostly in Arizona and California.

The tunnels seem to be becoming more common -- 139 of them were found since 2001, and 114 since 2006. The bill notes that the tunnels are mostly used to smuggle drugs, but can also be used to move "people and other contraband."

If this law passes, and its overwhelming bipartisan support suggests it will, authorities will have more investigative and legal tools to fight illicit tunnels on the border. This could mean a rise in the number of tunnels discovered, especially if the 2006 law was responsible for the subsequent spike in tunnels found.

Aside from this law, the US is stepping up its fight against illicit tunnels by investing in advanced technologies to keep pace with the increasing skill and ambition of their builders. Given that most of the busts so far have resulted from policing and intelligence work, it appears unlikely that high-tech systems will be able to cost-effectively stem the illicit flows underneath the US's borders. Instead, laws like the Border Tunnel Prevention Act may be more effective, by equipping prosecutors and investigators to bring a broader range of cases, intercept more communications, and seize more assets.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

CHAPITOS / 6 DEC 2022

In response to changes in the international marijuana trade, Mexico-based drug trafficking groups have shifted their strategies.

FENTANYL / 22 NOV 2022

Authorities in the United States have sanctioned a Mexican criminal group for trafficking illicit fentanyl into the country.

COCAINE / 6 MAY 2022

The US has offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest of leaders of the Montes Bobadilla…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…