Chasing tips about tunnels is the kind of thing that border reporters do. After a few years of this, I developed a routine: Change into jeans and tennis shoes, grab a map, and bring a sweater in case the search drags into the night.
Typically, but not always, the tunnels would be discovered on the U.S. side. Being based out of Tijuana, my job was to find their entrance. Often times this was what the Mexican authorities were doing, too, so the process involved us – reporters, mostly Mexican – hanging around the periphery of whatever area seemed to be of interest to the investigators. Sometimes the hunt took up to 24 hours, but it was often worth the wait. Since Mexican authorities were less strict with liability issues, this could mean a chance to poke around a recently-found tunnel (used to either smuggle people or drugs).
The last big tunnel I got to cover along the California border was the large one found December, 2007, in Tecate. It happened at the exact moment I learned my then-employer, The San Diego Union-Tribune, would be offering buyouts. My former colleague Sandra Dibble has since taken over tunnel duty, and writes this story about the latest incomplete tunnel found in Mexicali that included a hydraulic pulley. For a story by the Los Angeles Times, go here; for KPBS-San Diego, go here.
The Union-Tribune also has an interactive map and description of border tunnels since 1990. I’m not sure it has been updated, but at the end of December, 2007, I had counted 73 tunnels found since 1990 along the California and Arizona border.
Photo: Looking up from inside the Tecate tunnel, found December, 2007