A “tunnel rat” enters a tunnel spanning the border between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico.
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Border Patrol 'tunnel rats' plug underground passagesThey are known in the U.S. Border Patrol as "tunnel rats" – agents who go in clandestine passages that have proliferated on the U.S.-Mexico border over the past 20 years to smuggle drugs. The Associated Press joined the Border Tunnel Entry Team, as it is formally known, inside an incomplete tunnel that was discovered in San Diego in 2009 – 70 feet deep, 3 feet wide, 2,700 feet long and equipped with a rail system, lighting and ventilation.Authorities discovered 224 border tunnels originating in Mexico from 1990 to March 2016, including 185 that entered the United States, according to the latest U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration annual survey.On the U.S. side, the tunnels have been filled since 2007 to prevent smugglers from burrowing into them.LeNoir says smugglers have tapped into existing tunnels at least seven times in recent years.The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says it spent $8.7 million to fill tunnels from 2007 to 2015 .
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