May 18, 2012
The US Congress has passed a bill to tighten penalties on building illicit tunnels under the border from Mexico, closing a loophole in previous legislation in an attempt to clamp down on this increasingly popular method of smuggling drugs, arms, and people.
The Border Tunnel Prevention Act of 2012 passed the House with over 400 votes, with four votes against. The press secretary of congressman Silvestre Reyes (D-El Paso), the bill’s main sponsor, told InSight Crime it expands on a 2006 law criminalizing the construction of border tunnels, by allowing prosecutors to target those who conspire or attempt to build illegal tunnels. The secretary said the earlier law contained a “loophole” in that it could only be used to prosecute those who had successfully completed tunnels.
The law, pending approval by the Senate and a signature by the president, would also allow for wiretapping and asset seizures aimed at those who build and operate illegal tunnels.