MARCH 20, 2009
In what may seem like a bad joke, a storm drain connecting Mexico to the United States was left open and unattended for hours by federal border agents who eventually discovered a number of illegal immigrants using it as a passageway into the country.
It gets better. The storm drain is located in front of the nation’s busiest border crossing, San Ysidro, which connects Tijuana to San Diego so the area is loaded with U.S. border inspection booths. An estimated 40,000 vehicles use the San Ysidro crossing to enter the U.S. daily, often waiting in long lines for hours to cross north.
Mexican vendors who cruise the lines selling last-minute souvenirs and snacks, saw a Tijuana street cleaner remove the rectangular drain cover with a screwdriver to retrieve a motorist’s visa. Afterwards, U.S. authorities simply put orange cones around the open hole and left it unattended for about eight hours in the middle of the night. The bright markers evidently drew attention to the unmanned opening.
There’s no telling how many illegal immigrants used it to enter the country but eight—including a professional human smuggler—were eventually caught after a motorist tipped off U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The six males and two females had entered the storm drain within eyesight of U.S. border agents yet went undetected. At least one of the men had been previously deported.
After media inquiries about the embarrassing gaffe, the government had the large entry welded shut so that a simple household tool can’t be used to open it.
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