Dec 22, 2008
A Practice in Excavating and Envisioning Ambos Nogales
On June 28, 2007, agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) executed a search warrant at 24 North Escalada Drive in Nogales, Arizona, at a home used to conceal the U.S. entrance to a recently constructed tunnel that stretched nearly 100 yards underground to a residence across the border in Mexico.
According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, on January 16, 2008 authorities discovered three short tunnels in Nogales connecting approximately 250 ft. of storm drain to create one continuous passage. Then on December 11, 2008 another clandestine tunnel was found near the Mexico border in Nogales. The tunnel's exit was located about one foot away from the International Boundary fence and was estimated to be about 12 by 19 inches wide.
For the US Border Patrol, it was the sixth tunnel found in the Tucson Sector during fiscal year 2009, which started on Oct. 1. Since the start of fiscal year 2003, 40 tunnels have been found.
The US-Mexico border is not usually thought of in its below grade condition, but the continual illicit digging of tunnels, for the smuggling of drugs and individuals, by increasingly well-organized and sophisticated groups, has been cause for the deployment of combative strategies ranging from “tunnel teams” (Border Patrol Tunnel Unit) to concrete plugs. While monitoring technologies such as motion sensors are effective in the case of sewage infrastructure, clandestine tunnels are most effectively filled with concrete.
Up until now, these plugs have been used to close off the tunnels where they cross the border and at main entrance and exit points, while the areas in between remain largely intact. Part of the reason they have not been filled completely has to do with access to areas where they cross into private property, while on the Mexico side, a lack of resources sometimes keeps any work from being done, thereby keeping portions of tunnels available for reuse through new diggings. Without proper coordination and resources, this will continue to pose a binational security breach whose exact magnitude and range remains unknown.
My interest was in locating, excavating and envisioning three underground border systems: infrastructure (sewage tunnels), natural systems (caves, and illicitly dug tunnels, which through a system of aggregation, might suggest a specific spatial dynamic capable of being programmed for public access. Much of the potential for me exists within what I feel is the futility of the border fence as a definitive and defensible measure. Part of this dynamic is already visible at the border fence in the form of breaches that occur on a daily basis, requiring US Border Patrol to continually reseal and repatch what is often done with simple and highly accessible tools. During our visit to the border in El Paso we were told by US Border Patrol of days where, along just a stretch of a few miles, one to two hundred individuals would penetrate or jump the fence in an attempt to sprint across the barren Texas desert to then slip into the nearby neighborhoods. If this sort of circus can exist above ground, what sort of worlds might we find if we could have a totalizing view of the underground?