What does Nogales have in common with Stalag 13?

There’s always someone digging a tunnel.

Nogales, Arizona is the only border town in the United States to receive and process rainwater and other wastewater from the other side of the border. The water flows along a large canal that runs parallel to the railroad tracks, to the Nogales International Wastewater Treatment Plant, where it is treated before being released into the Santa Cruz River.

A canal carries wastewater from Nogales, Mexico to the Nogales, Arizona treatment facility

A canal carries wastewater from Nogales, Mexico to the Nogales, Arizona treatment facility

Because of this, there is a series of subterranean cement aqueducts that extend beneath both sides of the border to collect and carry the water from Nogales, Sonora to its sister city of Nogales, Arizona. Many of the tunnels that originate from the other side of the border connect to these structures for subterranean access to the United States.

This makes Nogales one of the more popular locales for smugglers of drugs and people to dig tunnels for access to their U.S. market. In response to this, federal authorities created the Nogales Tunnel Task Force to locate and close the tunnels. To help them search for and investigate tunnels, the task force has recently begun using robots, which reduces the risk of agents who previously had to enter the drainage channels. Read more.

A Border Patrol agent checks an underground wastewater tunnel

A Border Patrol agent checks an underground wastewater tunnel

On January 10 of this year, the Border Patrol noticed freshly turned dirt on the ground in one of the wastewater-carrying structures, and found a tunnel that had been started in one of the viaducts on the Mexican side of the border. The tunnel reached more than 100 feet under the international border, but had not yet emerged from the ground on the U.S. side. Read more.

Just three weeks earlier, the task force, discovered a 55-foot-long wood-lined tunnel that crossed under the border and surfaced in the backyard shed of a home in Nogales, Arizona.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE)

Photo courtesy of U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE)

According to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) there have been 75 tunnels discovered since 2008, and more than 170 uncovered since 1990.

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