By Daniel Borunda, El Paso Times
The U.S. Border Patrol and other agencies are investigating a tunnel discovered Thursday after a cave-in near Downtown El Paso, officials said.
A Border Patrol statement said that the purpose of the makeshift tunnel is unknown and that the agency is trying to determine how long the tunnel had been abandoned.
The tunnel is 25 yards long and a preliminary investigation found that it originated on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande, Border Patrol officials said Friday.
“There is no indication that it goes across the river into Mexico,” the agency said in a statement.
The tunnel was found after a cave-in during highway construction near the water treatment plant west of the historic Chihuahuita neighborhood, the Border Patrol said.
The Border West Expressway is being built in the area as part of a project connecting the César Chávez Border Highway to Interstate 10.
After the cave-in, Texas Department of Transportation workers notified agents working near the water plant, officials said.
The Border Patrol sent agents specially-trained to search confined spaces to check the tunnel, which extends north from the border.
The tunnel appears to be held up by wooden beams and contains mounds of dirt, boulders and what appears to be a wheelbarrow, according to a photo released by the Border Patrol.
“U.S. Border Patrol officials welcome any assistance from community members to report known information about this tunnel,” the agency said in a statement.
Underground smuggling is not unheard of in El Paso but it usually involves a maze of storm drainage tunnels extending from the Rio Grande.
For years, undocumented immigrants have tried to sneak across the border utilizing the drainage tunnels that run toward the river.
In October, agents rescued an injured immigrant after hearing voices coming from a storm drain near Sunset Heights.
The city of El Paso has about 300 miles of storm drains, ranging from 18 inches to 9 feet wide, that carry rain runoff from the mountains into canals and the Rio Grande.
Legends of El Paso border tunnels go back to the days of the Mexican Revolution and tales of underground passages built by Chinese immigrants in the 1880s.
Anyone with information on the tunnel found Thursday may call the Border Patrol El Paso Sector Intelligence Operations Center at 834-8561.