Today, a bill authored by Congressman Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), the Border Tunnel Prevention Act of 2012, which strengthens existing legislation that criminalizes the use, construction, and financing of cross-border tunnels, passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 416 to 4.
This legislation 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 voice voted out of the House Judiciary Committee in early March.
"This bill today is one step closer to becoming law, and I am thankful to my colleagues in the House for supporting this important legislation to help prevent illicit narcotics and other contraband from entering the United States," Congressman Reyes said. "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 that could be used to funnel drugs, firearms, cash, and people between the U.S. and Mexico with little risk of prosecution.
"The 2012 Border Tunnel Prevention Act would close these loopholes 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," Congressman Reyes said.
Congressman Reyes worked closely with Congressman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and Senator Diane Feinstein (D-California), Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, as well as other Members of Congress from border communities to move this legislation forward.
"I applaud Representative Reyes for working to get this critical bill through the House of Representatives," said Senator Dianne Feinstein, author of companion legislation in the Senate. "Our border states know all too well how criminals will stop at nothing to get drugs, weapons or people across--and even under-- our borders. I will work to quickly pass this bill in the Senate so we can send the Border Tunnel Prevention Act to the President for his signature."
H.R. 4119 is bipartisan legislation and is similar to U.S. Senate bill S. 1236 introduced by Senator Feinstein (D-California), which was passed by the Senate on January 30, 2012. Congressman Reyes' bill will now move to the Senate for approval there before it can be sent to President Obama's desk to be signed and enacted into law.