BORDER TUNNEL PREVENTION ACT OF 2006 -- (House of Representatives - September 21, 2006)
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Mr. SCHIFF. Madam Speaker, I rise today to express my support for H.R. 4830, the Border Tunnel Prevention Act.
Since September 11th, I have been extremely concerned with the security of our Nation's points of entry and the securing of weapons of mass destruction.
I have worked with my colleagues to establish screening of our air cargo, to deploy radiation detectors at our ports and borders, and to secure nuclear materials throughout the world. Most recently, I have worked with Senators FEINSTEIN and KYL on securing our seaports from terrorist attacks and sabotage, legislation that was signed into law earlier this year.
That is why the discovery in January of this year of a 2,400 foot tunnel near San Diego which was equipped with sophisticated draining, lighting, and pulley systems should shock the conscience of every Member of Congress. In fact, just this week, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced that they had discovered yet another cross-border drug-smuggling tunnel beneath a private residence in Calexico, California, that extended nearly 400 feet to a house in Mexicali, Mexico.
This is not a California problem or an Arizona problem--it is a national one.
Madam Speaker, all of our other efforts to secure our Nation's points of entry will be futile if this growing national security problem on our borders is not addressed. Although these tunnels have been principally used to smuggle drugs and illegal immigrants, there is nothing preventing their use for the smuggling of chemical, biological, or radiological material. The 9/11 Commission warned against a ``failure of imagination'', and it takes little to imagine terrorists making use of these holes in our border security.
Since 9/11, U.S. border officials have discovered 40 tunnels along American borders. They range in complexity from short ``gopher holes'' to massive drug-cartel built passages like the one found near San Diego in January.
We know that terrorists have and will continue to try to enter our country via our borders. The 2000 LAX millennium bomb attack plot was foiled when a terrorist was arrested at the U.S.-Canadian border after crossing by ferry. Customs officials found nitroglycerin and four timing devices concealed in a spare tire well of his automobile.
I am proud to be an original cosponsor to the legislation that we are considering today which would impose a punishment of up to 20 years in prison for individuals who are convicted of constructing or financing a subterranean tunnel under the U.S. border. It would, furthermore, impose a punishment of up to 10 years in prison for anyone who permits others to construct or use an unauthorized tunnel on their land. The bill also doubles penalties for those who use a tunnel or subterranean passage to smuggle aliens, weapons, drugs, terrorists or other illegal goods, and permits the seizure of assets of anyone involved in the offense, or any property that is traceable to the offense.
While those attempting to enter our country were being closely scrutinized and airline passengers were taking their shoes off or turning over their nail clippers, 40 border tunnels were being constructed in the United States, and thousands of pounds of illegal drugs and illegal aliens were pouring into our country.
Those patrolling our borders believe there is a direct correlation between the increased fortification of the border and the increase in the number of tunnels being found. If this problem is not addressed, it will just be a matter of time before these tunnels serve as an entry point for weapons and explosives, dangerous materials, and terrorists.
As a former federal prosecutor, I can appreciate how this legislation will serve as a useful tool in going after those who finance or construct these tunnels.
If the tunnel discovered earlier this week in Calexico, California, had been abandoned with no evidence remaining of drug or alien smuggling, those responsible for its construction should not be free from punishment. And those who negligently permit a tunnel opening or passage on their property should not be able to escape harsh penalties.
I appreciate the opportunity to work with Senators FEINSTEIN and KYL and Representatives DREIER and HUNTER on this important legislation and I applaud Senator FEINSTEIN's leadership on this crucial issue.
We must address this crucial national security matter, and I ask my colleagues to join me in supporting this much-needed legislation to stiffen penalties and successfully prosecute those who construct or finance tunnels under the U.S. border.
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