Today, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary approved legislation authored by Congressman Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas). The Border Tunnel Prevention Act of 2012 (H.R. 4119) would enhance the 2006 Border Tunnel Prevention Act, legislation that criminalized the construction or financing of an unauthorized tunnel or subterranean passage across an international border. The measure would further deter tunnel activities by providing enhanced investigative tools to law enforcement and increasing options for the prosecution of these crimes. The bill was voted out of the Judiciary Committee by unanimous support.
"Under current law, attempting or conspiring to use, construct or finance a cross-border tunnel is not prohibited, allowing criminal organizations to continue digging secret passageways to be used to funnel drugs, firearms, cash, and people between the U.S. and Mexico with little risk of prosecution," said Congressman Reyes. "The 2012 Border Tunnel Prevention Act would close this loophole and would also improve the tools available to investigate and prosecute individuals who construct cross-border tunnels including allowing the forfeiture of bulk cash and merchandise that enters the United States through these illegal channels."
"I congratulate Representative Reyes on the Committee's passage of the Border Tunnel Prevention Act of 2012. I appreciate his leadership on this important legislation to help combat the construction of cross-border tunnels," said Congressman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. "Drug cartels will stop at nothing to get their destructive products into the U.S. Since the 1990s, law enforcement agents have discovered almost 150 tunnels between Mexico and the United States. All but 10 of those tunnels were discovered in the past decade. This bill gives law enforcement officials the tools they need to investigate and prosecute those who construct, finance and use cross-border tunnels."
H.R. 4119 is bipartisan legislation and is similar to U.S. Senate bill S. 1236 introduced by Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA), which was passed by the Senate on January 30, 2012. It is expected that the full U.S. House of Representatives will take up the Reyes-authored measure in the next few weeks, and the bill would then move to the Senate for approval before it can be sent to the President to be signed into law.
"The Border Tunnel Prevention Act will provide law enforcement and prosecutors with the tools they need to halt the flow of illegal drugs while securing border communities and our nation. I am pleased that the Judiciary Committee acted swiftly on my legislation, and I urge all my colleagues in Congress to support this bipartisan legislation," said Congressman Reyes.