U.S. Border Patrol agents found a new hidden tunnel running under the U.S.-Mexico border, leading to the detainment of three dozen illegal immigrants.
Agents patrolling the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego, California, spotted the tunnel after 30 people emerged from it at around 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, officials told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
They caught four Mexican men and three Mexican women as well as 23 Chinese nationals, including two women. They had been smuggled into the United States via the tunnel and began running when agents approached them, Border Patrol Agent Eduardo Olmos said.
They were then taken to the Border Patrol station in Chula Vista for questioning.
Olmos said that some people went back in the tunnel, adding that it’s unclear if people succeeded in getting back to Mexico.
Investigators say the tunnel’s entrance is in a building in Tijuana, more than 300 feet south of the U.S.-Mexico border and runs past a fence at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry, KNSD-TV reported. Olmos could not confirm where the tunnel started or its length, Reuters reported. Subterranean tunnels found in the area are most commonly used for drug smuggling, according to the Customs and Border Patrol.
“Preliminarily it appears this latest tunnel may be an extension of an incomplete tunnel previously discovered and seized by Mexican authorities,” the CBP wrote in a press release. “While subterranean tunnels are not a new occurrence along the California-Mexico border, they are more commonly utilized by transnational criminal organizations to smuggle narcotics.”
“However, as this case demonstrates, law enforcement has also identified instances where such tunnels were used to facilitate human smuggling.”
In 2016, federal agents said they seized a ton of cocaine and seven tons of marijuana smuggled through a tunnel in the same area that stretched a half mile beneath the border. At the time, it was the longest one unearthed in California, Reuters previously reported.
Last week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers rescued a tiger cub after a teenager tried to smuggle the young animal near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry, Fox5 reported. An 18-year-old man pulled up to the Port of Entry at around 1:30 a.m., saying he had nothing to declare. Then, officers found a tiger cub lying on the floor of the passenger side.
Reuters contributed to this report.