Home>Articles>Large San Diego-Tijuana Drug Tunnel Uncovered, Resparking Border Drug Smuggling Concerns

U.S.-Mexico border crossing in Tijuana (Photo: Evan Symon for California Globe)

Large San Diego-Tijuana Drug Tunnel Uncovered, Resparking Border Drug Smuggling Concerns

Tunnel ran one-third of a mile underneath border

By Evan Symon, May 17, 2022 2:37 am

The Tijuana Police, Mexican National Guard, and U.S. Homeland Security announced the discovery of a large drug smuggling tunnel crossing from San Diego to Tijuana on Monday, shutting down one of the largest tunnels uncovered in recent years.

The tunnel, which spans one-third of a mile six stories beneath the ground, was found to be relatively sophisticated, with lighting, ventilation, reinforced walls, and even rail features to transport drugs quickly and without detection. When the tunnel was seized over the weekend, 1,762 pounds of cocaine were found and confiscated, along with 165 pounds of meth and 3.5 pounds of heroin. Six individuals, all Californians, were also arrested and charged with drug distribution.

The tunnel’s endpoint in San Diego was just across from the Otay Mesa border crossing, in a warehouse called “Amistad Park.” A recent stakeout of a drug stash house and following where deliveries had come from uncovered the warehouse as a drug tunnel endpoint, with Mexican authorities working in conjunction with the Americans to seize the Mexican opening.

While the tunnel uncovered in San Diego during the weekend pales in comparison to others found in recent years, such as a tunnel that was over 4,000 feet long in early 2020, the San Diego Tunnel was high volume. Close to 90 tunnels have now been found going between San Diego and Tijuana since 2009, with almost 200 being found throughout the border. However, of the more sophisticated types with things such as lighting and ventilation, 15 have been found since 2006.

While officials on both sides still had many questions on Monday, such as which cartel, if any, was operating it and how long it had been operational, they declared victory, saying that another tunnel had been found and shut down.

“There is no more light at the end of this narco-tunnel,” U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California Randy Grossman said on Monday. “We will take down every subterranean smuggling route we find to keep illicit drugs from reaching our streets and destroying our families and communities.”

The San Diego tunnel

However, the unveiling of the tunnel brought new concerns on Monday that the drug smuggling problem will become even worse now as drug movers will have to find different ways to get bulk amounts of illegal drugs across the border.

“Ever since marijuana became legal in California in 2019, the big thing has been hard drugs going across,” explained former Mexican Federale Juan Martinez Gomez, who legally immigrated to California ten years ago to become a cross border consultant for local police departments, to the Globe. “Before that we were finding tunnel after tunnel used for marijuana smuggling.”

“This is now worrisome because these drugs fetch higher prices, but at the same time trafficking¬† and selling them warrant much worse jail sentences, on both sides of the border. Marijuana and smuggling other things, like migrants, through the tunnels is much less cost effective. Plus, with migrants, if they are picked up in the US, or if American criminals who use it to go down South are caught in Mexico, they’ll tell. They always tell. Cocaine and heroin? They are high price and they don’t talk.”

“This tunnel is pretty impressive. Someone spent a lot of money making this one work. That’s a lot of dirt to suddenly have to shift around, and if you have ever seen movies that involve tunnels, like say The Great Escape, you know how hard it is to hide from authorities.”

“This is concerning and I think it will just lead to more tunnels being tried and new methods to be used. It is a victory for the US and Mexico, but it is one we have to learn from. Every time a tunnel is discovered, we see that they learn what not to do from how they were caught.”

The tunnel is to be filled with concrete in the near future, as per federal law. As of Monday, no others have been apprehended in relation to the tunnel.

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One thought on “Large San Diego-Tijuana Drug Tunnel Uncovered, Resparking Border Drug Smuggling Concerns

  1. Great article !
    It sounds like the ground under the border will soon be 100% concrete filled former tunnels

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