Letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson Regarding Border Tunnel in Southern Arizona

Apr 24, 2015

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The Honorable Jeh Johnson       
Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C.  20528

Secretary Johnson,

Recently, Arizona’s largest cross-border smuggling tunnel was discovered in Naco, AZ. According to news reports, this tunnel is one of the more highly sophisticated smuggling tunnels, replete with hydraulics, ventilation, and lighting systems.

Unfortunately, the existence of this tunnel does not seem to have been brought to light by federal law enforcement agencies. Rather, it appears that the discovery of this sophisticated tunnel was merely a byproduct of a traffic-stop-turned-drug-bust by a local law enforcement officer.

With this in mind, I was quite alarmed to hear the testimony given by Border Patrol Agent, Chris Cabrera, on March 17, 2015 in a Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing. In this testimony, he said: “our intel knew for some time that that tunnel was being used and that we should patrol that area more aggressively.” To my amazement, he went on to say that Border Patrol agents were not allowed by management to work in or patrol that area.

I am very concerned that such extensive and sophisticated infrastructure was—and presumably continues to be—built and operated right beneath our feet without action being taken by federal law enforcement. Furthermore, I am deeply concerned by the allegations that management within Customs and Border Patrol had intelligence indicating the existence of this tunnel and did not allow our agents to work or patrol the area.

With these concerns, it is imperative that we learn more about the investigation that ostensibly would have taken place on such an expansive and sophisticated tunnel. Unfortunately, my office has yet to receive a satisfactory answer as to what kind of investigations have been done to determine to the extent possible what dangerous items, materials and/or individuals were transported through that tunnel and into our communities.

During the course of my own investigation, I learned that at least one local landowner is being pressured to sign forms that would allow access to a portion of his/her land that the tunnel runs under in order to fill it with concrete. Without information as to the extent of your agency’s investigation, this is very alarming as destroying the tunnel would make it seemingly impossible to conduct additional tests and complete a thorough investigation.  With this in mind, I ask:

  • Has this tunnel been thoroughly tested for evidence of the transport of nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons?
  • Has DHS conducted a forensic study to learn where the materials for the tunnel were procured and, if possible, by whom?
  • Have investigations been conducted to determine whether or not foreign agents of terrorism have used the tunnel to enter the United States of America?
  • Have investigations been conducted to determine what intelligence federal law enforcement had and when they had it?
  • Have investigations been conducted to determine whether Border Patrol management did in fact restrict the access of Border Patrol agents around the area of this tunnel?
  • Will you act immediately to ensure that this tunnel is not destroyed or otherwise altered until we can ensure that proper investigations of this tunnel have been completed?

I firmly believe that the American people deserve answers, especially those families and communities whose safety is directly impacted.  I sincerely hope that you will join me in calling for the delay of any measure that would destroy the tunnel or cause evidence to be altered until the Department of Homeland Security and the American people receive answers. I thank you for your assistance in this matter and look forward to your timely response.