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Over Two Dozen Caught Trying to Illegally Enter U.S. Through Tunnel

27 Aug 2017 5:54 pm
By Alicia A. Caldwell 

LOS ANGELES -- The U.S. Border Patrol arrested more than two dozen people trying to illegally enter the U.S. through a smuggling tunnel running under the border with Mexico, just south of San Diego.

Border agents found the tunnel after arresting 30 migrants, 23 of whom were from China, near a fence line not far from the Otay Mesa border crossing Saturday.

Though under-the-border tunnels have become a somewhat routine discovery -- agents have found more than 200 such crossings since 1990 -- most are used for drug trafficking.

The tunnel's opening was little more than a crude hole in the dirt with a ladder inside. The Border Patrol said investigators believe the tunnel may be an extension of an unfinished passageway previously discovered and seized by Mexican authorities.

Saturday's discovery suggests that human smugglers and would-be immigrants are changing their tactics in trying to get people across the border.

Smugglers have also recently been caught hiding migrants in the backs of tractor-trailers in Texas. In July, 10 migrants died in a trailer; eight were found dead in the smuggling incident and two more died later.

Saturday's discovery was also unusual because of who was found outside the tunnel.

Historically Mexican migrants have made up the majority of illegal border crossers, though in recent years the number of Central Americans caught crossing the border has outpaced those from Mexico. And in recent years, migrants from all over the world have been showing up at the U.S. border in increasing numbers.

During the 2015 budget year, Border Patrol agents arrested more than 8,000 people from India, China, Romania, Bangladesh and Nepal. China and India are among the top 10 countries whose citizens are being arrested by U.S. authorities at the border in recent years.

President Donald Trump has made border security and cracking down on illegal immigration a priority of his administration.

Arrests of people caught crossing the border illegally plummeted in the months immediately after he took office in January and he has called for the government to hire 5,000 new border agents and build a wall along the Mexican border.

Critics of Mr. Trump's plans have argued that a border wall would be a waste of money and smugglers will simply go over or under such a barrier.

The tunnel found Saturday ran under two layers of fencing that has been in place for more than a decade, with the opening just beyond the fence line, according to the Border Patrol.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 27, 2017 13:54 ET (17:54 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2017 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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