WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously passed Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s DHS Illicit Cross-Border Tunnel Defense Act – bipartisan legislation introduced with Republican Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) that improves border security by combating cartels’ human smuggling and drug trafficking operations.
“We’re cracking down on cartels’ criminal activity by directing Customs and Border Protection to identify, intercept, and seal off cross-border tunnels used to smuggle drugs, weapons, and people across our border,” said Sinema, Chair of the Senate Border Management and Government Operations Subcommittee.
Sinema’s bipartisan legislation instructs Customs and Border Protection to develop a plan that helps identify, breach, and remediate illicit cross-border tunnels. The legislation also requires CBP to conduct a resource assessment to determine the technology and staffing needs necessary for this strategic plan’s implementation, and report to Congress on CBP’s implementation progress after one year.
Illicit cross-border tunnels are a major problem on the Southwest Border. These tunnels allow cartels to move people and drugs freely across the border, putting Arizona communities at risk. The first cross-border tunnel was discovered in Douglas in May 1990. Since then, over 100 additional tunnels have been found in the Tucson Sector, more than any other border sector.
Sinema and Cornyn’s bipartisan legislation comes at a critical time given the recent discovery of a major drug smuggling tunnel between San Diego and Tijuana, which included rail systems, electricity, and reinforced walls. Thousands of pounds of drugs were seized from the tunnel.
In February, Sinema, Cornyn and a bipartisan group of senators called on the Secretary of the U.S. State Department to increase its border security collaboration with Mexico and ensure the permanent closure of illegal cross-border tunnels to prevent cartels from using them to smuggle weapons and drugs.