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More Border Patrol Legislation May Be On the Way — Will this Effect Traffickers operating in San Antonio and around Texas?

June 16, 2011 – A bill has been introduced by Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.) to prosecute people who finance or construct border tunnels. The bill also includes illegal tunneling as an offenseeligible for Title III wiretaps.

According to the Feinstein website: “We know that weapons, drugs, and even terrorists can be smuggled through these border tunnels…property owners who recklessly disregard the existence of tunnels on their land will be held to account.”

The Border Tunnel Prevention Act of 2011 will:
• Make the use, construction or financing of a border tunnel a conspiracy offense;
• Include illegal tunneling as an offense eligible for Title III wiretaps even when there are not drugs or other contraband to facilitate a wiretap;
• Specify border tunnel activity as unlawful under the existing forfeiture and money laundering provisions to allow authorities to seize assets in these cases.

According to thehill.com: 11 tunnels have been found this year (as of 6/18/2011), 125 since 2001, mostly along the CA and AZ borders, only 12 tunnels total were found between 1990 and 2001.
According to the ice.gov website June 25, 2010 New Release: The first Texas tunnel was located in El Paso.
On the justice.gov website, the National Drug Intelligence Center issued the National Drug Threat Assessment 2009 in December 2008. In the report it said that cocaine was the number 1 drug threat to the US at the time, with the vast majority of the supply coming from countries in Central and South America. Most of the smuggling was done through Texas and California. The report described how cocaine was found all over Texas, but crack cocaine was generally found in higher populated areas like Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. “The 24th and 25th Judicial District Narcotics task force in Sequin reports that crack cocaine-related criminal activity poses the greatest threat to safety of the citizens in that area.” In 2002, 15,998 kilograms of cocaine was seized within 150 miles of the Texas-Mexico border (only 3,381 kilograms were seized in CA in the same year).
Senate bill 1236 (S. 1236), The Border Tunnel Prevention Act of 2011was introduced on 6/20/2011, and then was referred to the Judiciary Committee. Was introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Summary of the bill: A bill to reduce the trafficking of drugs and to prevent human smuggling across the Southwest Border by deterring the construction and use of the border tunnels. (The full test of the bill has not been released yet). Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) on 6/21/2011. House Resolution 2264 (H.R. 2264) is titled To reduce the trafficking of drugs and to prevent human smuggling across the Southwest Border by deterring the construction and use of border tunnels. It has been referred to the Judiciary Committee.

I do not believe that prosecuting the person who finances the tunnel or the prosecuting the person who allows tunnels to be built on their land will be useful. It’s almost analogous to prosecuting the person who builds roads where drugs are transported in vehicles. Although roads serve an ulterior primary purpose, it is not the tunnel itself that is committing the crime; unless there is a law that criminalizes digging under a border. My only really problem with this legislation is this part: “Specify border tunnel activity as unlawful under the existing forfeiture and money laundering provisions to allow authorities to seize assets in these cases.” I think this is overbroad but also the law is already clear that someone who is caught trafficking is subject to civil forfeiture.

The Law Office of Dayna L. Jones handles all types of trafficking cases in Bexar County and surrounding areas. Contact us today if you or someone you love has been arrested.