Drug tunnel discovered in Nogales (with photos) - Tucson News Now

Drug tunnel discovered in Nogales (with photos)

Part of the tunnel used the existing drainage system. Part of the tunnel used the existing drainage system.
The entrance to the tunnel was found near a parking lot by the border. The entrance to the tunnel was found near a parking lot by the border.
Trash strewn about suspected drug packages. Trash strewn about suspected drug packages.
Another view of the tunnel. Another view of the tunnel.

By Suleika Acosta - email

It almost seems like the border with Mexico is as busy below ground as it is above. Border Patrol agents are uncovering a record number of smuggling tunnels under the Nogales Border, 13 of them so far this year.

"We'll build a fence, if they can't go over. They're going to try to go under," says Agent Mike Scioli.

Smugglers are building more underground tunnels than ever before, passageways for marijuana, weapons and people.

Border Patrol recently discovered a tunnel in a parking lot next to the international boundary fence, just feet away from the Deconcini Port of Entry.

"A lot of them will go they're in the town here so basically as soon as they get out of that hole, they pop out and they can blend in with the rest of the community."

Some tunnel are reinforced with sand bags and wooden pillars, other are built with intricate lighting systems.

Agents say it isn't rare to see smugglers connect drug tunnels into drainage systems. They say it's a quick and easy escape route.

"It's going to take a lot less time to burrow into here and then use that to get somewhere a little further north than it is to keep creating another tunnel."

The Morley Avenue tunnel in the center of Nogales is a familiar spot for agents who say smugglers use the waterway to link tunnels underneath the port of entry.

When a suspected tunnel is found, it isn't always safe for agents to go inside. Border Patrol uses what they call a robot as their eyes. Operated with a remote control, the robot has a camera and lights attached that allows agents to see what lies underneath.

"Tools like this are helping us and we're stopping them but yet they're going to keep trying until sooner or later we've sealed that off," adds Scioli.

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