House Passes Schiff Sponsored Legislation to Secure Our Borders

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House passed bipartisan legislation cosponsored by Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) that will criminalize the construction or financing of border tunnels.  As a former federal prosecutor who prosecuted drug trafficking and illegal immigrant smuggling, Schiff recognized the need to give prosecutors new tools to fight these crimes.   Schiff joined Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) in sponsoring the measure in the House and Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) have introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

This week, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced the discovery of a drug smuggling tunnel that ran from Calexico, CA to Mexicali, Mexico. Earlier this year, U.S. border officials also found a 2,400 foot tunnel stretching from Tijuana, Mexico to San Diego at California’s southern border.  The tunnel, the longest of its kind ever found, was equipped with sophisticated draining, lighting, and pulley systems.

“The discovery of these tunnels is a wake-up call for every Member of Congress,” Schiff said, “This is not a California or an Arizona problem – it is national one.  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 approximately 40 tunnels along American borders.  They range in complexity from short “gopher holes” to massive drug-cartel built passages like the one found in San Diego. 

The legislation passed today would:

  • Impose a punishment of up to 20 years imprisonment for constructing or financing a tunnel crossing international borders into the United States;
  • Impose a punishment of up to 10 years imprisonment for anyone who permits others to construct or use an unauthorized tunnel or subterranean passage on their land;
  • Punish any person who uses a tunnel or subterranean passage to smuggle aliens, weapons, drugs, terrorists or illegal goods by doubling the sentence for the underlying offense if convicted;
  • Forfeit the assets of anyone involved in the offense, or any property traceable to the offense, in addition to imprisonment;
  • Instruct the U.S. Sentencing Commission to amend sentencing guidelines to provide criminal penalties for persons convicted under this bill, and to take into account the gravity of this crime when considering the base offense levels.

Congressman Schiff is a former federal prosecutor and the co-founder of the Democratic Study Group on National Security.  He serves on both the House Judiciary and International Relations committees.  He represents California’s 29th Congressional District, which includes the communities of Alhambra, Altadena, Burbank, East Pasadena, East San Gabriel, Glendale, Monterey Park, Pasadena, San Gabriel, South Pasadena and Temple City.