Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Inside the tunnel: Boys used in drug-smuggling route

Mexican drug cartels used boys and small adults to dig a tunnel crawling the width of the Rio Grande. Through it, smugglers would bring contraband to the United States, officials said. Border Patrol agents thought the river would be an obstacle to building tunnels in El Paso and east of the city. They were wrong. Agents were surprised Friday to find a cross-border tunnel extending underneath the Rio Grande from the Mexican side to a maze of storm drains on the U.S. side. "El Paso sector hasn't seen anything like this before," said Joe Perez, a Border Patrol agent at the site. The El Paso sector covers all of New Mexico and West Texas. The Border Patrol has discovered more than 100 tunnels along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona and California. The man-made tunnel is the first of its kind in the El Paso sector. Smugglers dug the tunnel two feet under the Rio Grande, Border Patrol agents said. Because the riverbed is covered in concrete, water did not enter the tunnel, which allowed smugglers to continue excavating dirt. Perez said the Border Patrol had not noticed the man-made tunnel before because smugglers would not come out of it near the border. Instead, they would navigate the arteries of the storm-drain system of El Paso. These spacious tunnels lead to places such as Paisano Drive and the University of Texas at El Paso. ..more

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