The San Diego Tunnel Task Force is investigating an illegal smuggling tunnel found in San Ysidro feet from the border.
U.S. Border Patrol agents saw a sinkhole Tuesday near the fence just east of the water treatment plant. That sinkhole collapsed revealing an opening to the tunnel.
NBC 7 had the only U.S. news crew to get a close up look at the tunnel. It was about four feet high and three feet wide. It had a rail-cart system, lighting and a ventilation system which consisted of a couple air blowers and dryer hoses.
“The tunnel was not completed. It was currently under construction, “ said Border Patrol Agent James Nielsen. “It’s clear it was going to be used for smuggling activity, but it was unclear whether it was going to be used for people or possibly drugs.
Agent Nielsen says transnational criminal organizations are using unorthodox methods to cross the border such as tunnels, aircrafts and by sea. He says since September 11, 2001 there have been 56 underground tunnels discovered in the San Diego sector.
“We’ve had tunnels on the east side of the San Ysidro Port of Entry cross the international border and then come inside warehouses,” said Agent Nielsen.
Investigators don’t know where the tunnel was heading (although it was heading in the direction of a residential community in San Ysidro), but they do know where it started. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say it started in a home in Tijuana about 220 yards away.
NBC 7 went to that area in Tijuana Wednesday and saw the home surrounded by tape and several Mexican military officials. The home was still under construction. The roof was exposed and its walls were held up with pieces of wood. The home was only about 50 yards from the border fence.
Officials say no drugs were found in the tunnel and, as of Wednesday, no arrests were made.
Task force officials plan to fill the tunnel with a concrete semi-solid substance in the coming weeks. They say the material is used because if someone were to try to dig again in that spot, the material would collapsed on itself making it difficult to create another tunnel.
Border Patrol officials also want to raise awareness about their border hotline, which should be used when you notice suspicious activity near and along the border. That number is 877-988-6635.