Press Releases

Washington, DC– U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and six of her Senate colleagues are urging Mexico to enact legislation similar to a bill introduced by Senator Feinstein to criminalize the construction or financing of a border tunnel between the United States and Mexico or Canada. The other Senators who signed onto the letter were Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), and Jim Talent (R-Mo.)

In letters to members of the Mexican Congress and Mexican President Vicente Fox, Senator Feinstein and her colleagues outlined the details of the Senate proposal, and explained that this legislation was prompted by the discovery of a highly sophisticated, half-mile long tunnel between the United States and Mexico that could have been used to traffic drugs, humans, guns, or even terrorists between the two countries.

“It is our hope that Mexico would consider enacting similar legislation,” the Senators wrote. “Our countries must continue to work together to address this problem by discovering and shutting down those who build, finance or use border tunnels for illegal purposes.”

Forty tunnels and subterranean passages into the United States have been discovered since 2001. According to the Department of Homeland Security, these tunnels are typically built first to smuggle drugs, and quickly transition into passages for smuggling illegal aliens. Senator Feinstein and her colleagues are concerned that these border tunnels could be used to smuggle weapons and terrorists into the United States as well.

Specifically, Senator Feinstein’s bill would:

  • Impose a punishment of up to 20 years imprisonment for constructing or financing a tunnel crossing international borders into the United States;
  • Impose a punishment of up to 10 years imprisonment for anyone who negligently permits others to construct or use an unauthorized tunnel or subterranean passage on their land;
  • Punish any person who uses a tunnel or subterranean passage to smuggle aliens, weapons, drugs, terrorists or illegal goods by doubling the sentence for the underlying offense if convicted;
  • Forfeit the assets of anyone involved in the offense, or any property traceable to the offense, in addition to imprisonment;
  • Authorize and fund Department of Homeland Security efforts to fill in these tunnels and subterranean passages; and
  • Instruct the U.S. Sentencing Commission to amend sentencing guidelines to provide for criminal penalties for persons convicted under this bill, and to take into account the gravity of this crime when considering the base offense levels.

Following is the text of the letter sent to President Fox and members of the Mexican Congress:

March 15, 2006

The Honorable Vicente Fox
President of Mexico
Residencia Oficial de los Pinos
Mexico DF
Sen. Enrique Jackson Ramirez
Presidente de la Mesa Directiva del Senado de la Republica
-and-
Dip. Maria Marcela Gonzalez Sales y Petricioli
Presidente de la Mesa Directiva de la H. Camára de Diputados
México, D.F.