Today, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member on the Committee on Homeland Security, released the below statement in response to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) report on the usage of cross border tunnels. The report entitled "Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Strategy to Address Illicit Cross-Border Tunnels" (OIG 12-132) found that since 1990 more that 140 tunnels have breached the U.S. border and that there has been a 20 percent increase in activity since 2008. These tunnels are being used by criminals primarily to transport illegal narcotics into the United States. The OIG conducted an audit to determine whether CBP has a strategy in place to stop this increased cross border tunneling and if tunnel detection technology has been acquired.
As a result of the audit, the OIG found that CBP has modified its field operations, but lacks the technological capability to detect cross border tunneling. CBP will create a new Program Management Office to manage and, organize efforts to close the current capability gaps in cross-border tunneling. While the new program will work in cooperation with the Homeland Security Investigations at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Department of Homeland Security will be responsible for approving CBP's new program, provide resources, and help in countering the cross-border tunneling threat.
The OIG made two recommendations to CBP to address the needs of both CBP and ICE and two recommendations to DHS to improve their coordination and oversight of CBP and ICE's counter cross-border tunneling efforts.
Ranking Member Thompson released the following statement on the report:
"This report shows that the Department of Homeland Security has a lot of work to do before it can accurately and reliably detect cross-border tunnels. As with any significant technological development, it is imperative that this effort has strict oversight and is properly managed, or it will become the next money pit -- much like the now abandoned SBInet. I look forward to working with DHS to ensure this effective management is in place at CBP."