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February 21, 2024

Crane Introduces Bipartisan Border Security Bill to Counteract Underground Smuggling Tunnels

Recently, Rep. Eli Crane (R-AZ), alongside Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA), introduced the Subterranean Border Defense Act, which strengthens overlapping deterrence by requiring annual reports to Congress on counter illicit cross-border tunnel operations.

As Transnational Criminal Organizations continue to expand in both size and sophistication, illicit cross-border tunnels along the southwest border of the United States represent a significant and growing threat to national security. Congress must address this deadly threat and ensure U.S. Customs and Border Protection has the resources needed to acquire counter tunnel technology.

Since 1990, law enforcement officials have discovered more than 140 tunnels that have breached the U.S. border, with an 80% increase in tunnel activity occurring since 2008. CBP dismantles cross-border tunnels as part of its overall border security and law enforcement missions. In fact, there are research, development, and test activities conducted between the United States and Israel – who must combat a vast network of Hamas tunnels under the Gaza Strip – to detect and destroy tunnels in both countries.

“As terrorists, cartels, and smugglers develop new ways to infiltrate our country, the U.S. must stay on the cutting edge of security technology to protect our citizens and our infrastructure,” said Rep. Crane. “I’m proud to be able to champion one more deterrent on our southern border that will play a crucial role in keeping Arizonans safe.”

“It’s clear that human traffickers and illegal drug smugglers have developed dynamic ways to evade capture—making it urgent and necessary that we adapt to defend against their attempts to breach our border,” said Rep. Correa. “I’m honored to be leading this bipartisan effort, alongside Rep. Crane, to help improve our efforts to counter these tunnels and those who rely on them, and protect the lives of those on both sides of our border.”

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023 mandated that CBP submit a one-time report to Congress on a strategic plan for counter illicit cross-border tunnel operations. This report has since led Congress to conduct critical oversight and has enabled CBP to formalize many of the authorities, processes, technologies, and resources needed to counteract illegal underground tunnels under the U.S.-Mexico border.

Rep. Crane’s legislation would mandate a report every year going forward to ensure Congress has sufficient knowledge and oversight in regard to this dynamic threat.

Original cosponsors of the legislation include Reps. Biggs (R-AZ), Duncan (R-SC), Gosar (R-AZ), Guest (R-TX), Higgins (R-LA), Luttrell (R-TX), McCaul (R-TX), and Ogles (R-TN).