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January 30, 2007
(Not) Plugging The Holes In Our Border

In a war on terrorism in which we have already suffered thousands of deaths from infiltrators into the US, one might think that border security might take a leading position among issues faced the federal government. However, the Los Angeles Times reports that sophisticated tunnels literally undermining our southern border still remain in use even after their discovery, thanks to half-hearted efforts to plug the holes created by smugglers:

Seven of the largest tunnels discovered under the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years have yet to be filled in, authorities said, raising concerns because smugglers have tried to reuse such passages before.

Among the unfilled tunnels, created to ferry people and drugs, is the longest one yet found — extending nearly half a mile from San Diego to Tijuana. Nearby, another sophisticated passageway once known as the Taj Mahal of tunnels has been sitting unfilled for 13 years, authorities say.

Though concrete plugs usually close off the tunnels where they cross under the border and at main entrance and exit points, the areas in between remain largely intact. Filling the seven tunnels would cost about $2.7 million, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials. Accessing tunnels that run under private property is also a problem, as is a lack of coordination with Mexican authorities.

Mexican authorities have told their U.S. counterparts that they've filled their end of the tunnels. But U.S. officials express doubt, citing the high costs and examples of tunnels being compromised. The Mexican attorney general's office, which handles organized crime, did not respond to numerous requests for interviews.

It's difficult to blame the Mexican government for its lack of action on the tunnels when we haven't done much with them, either. Congress shifted responsibility for the tunnels to Customs and Border Protection when it reorganized the Department of Homeland Security in 2003, but almost four years later, no one appears willing to address the problem effectively. As a result, smugglers -- and others -- simply work around the obstacles placed in the tunnels on the cheap.

Most tunnels require little effort to destroy. They consist of cheap, and probably dangerous, wormholes that can easily be shut down. However, the money flowing into the drug- and alien-smuggling operations have allowed miners with real expertise to create elaborate tunnels, some with telephone service, rails, and video surveillance. CBP and its predecessors have used concrete plugs to block these tunnels, rather than properly fill them with dirt in order to ensure that smugglers simply don't tunnel around the obstructions. And that's exactly what they do, which requires even more enforcement activity to stop the new brances off the same tunnels.

CPB points to issues of private-property ownership and cost when explaining the lack of progress on the tunnels. Some may take as much as $2 million in work to completely fill, and some private-property owners object to the methods used to fill them in any case. However, this isn't a case of water rights-of-way or filling potholes on city streets. These tunnels could be used to transport anything around our border protection, and illegal workers are the least problematic of the potential contraband. While we have Congress demanding 100% inspection of cargo at port facilities, we have allowed these unchecked entry points to continue their usefulness to people who might use them to smuggle any kind of weapons to use against us.

These tunnels need to get shut down immediately. CPB, the White House, and Congress needs to make arrangements to resolve whatever procedural and cost difficulties exist quickly and end the potential for the kinds of mischief we wish to avoid. After we get serious about these tunnels, we can demand that the Mexicans meet their responsibilities.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 30, 2007 6:27 AM

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» (Not) Plugging The Holes In Our Border from Bill's Bites
(Not) Plugging The Holes In Our Border Ed Morrissey In a war on terrorism in which we have already suffered thousands of deaths from infiltrators into the US, one might think that border security might take a leading position among [Read More]

Tracked on January 30, 2007 11:04 AM

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» Tunneling Into The United States Courtesy Of Disingenuous Politicians from Webloggin
Mark this down in your book as one more reason behind the Republicans rout in November. The consistent lack of bite behind the tough talk is indicative of a political party that has lost its rudder. Perhaps 2 years as a minority party will get them bac... [Read More]

Tracked on January 30, 2007 5:55 PM


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