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Border tunnel act signed into law

Border tunnel

President Obama put his signature on a bill that raises the federal criminal penalties for building, or financing the building, of border tunnels from Mexico into the U.S.

The measure was introduced by Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) to broad bipartisan support in May and the president signed it into law on June 5.

“This legislation will further deter tunnel activities by providing enhanced investigative tools to law enforcement and increasing options for the prosecution of these crimes,” said Reyes in a statement following the bill signing at the White House.

Cross-border tunnels have become more and more common along the southern border, especially in areas of California and Arizona, as drug smugglers look for ways around tightening enforcement along above ground routes. The tunnels have also grown in sophistication, with extensive ventilation and cooling systems and cargo moving facilities.

In signing the bill, White House press secretary Jim Carney said in the last three years the Obama administration has nearly doubled the number of Border Patrol agents since 2004 and DHS unmanned aerial capabilities now cover the southwest border from California to Texas for the first time ever. He added apprehensions along that border reflect far fewer attempts to cross illegally while seizures of illegal currency, drugs, and guns are dramatically up

In his statement, Carney also noted DHS’ release of the first unified Northern Border Strategy that provides a framework to enhance security and resiliency while expediting lawful travel and trade.