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***The live chat is now over. Please read below to see the discussion that occurred during the show, and come back Wednesday September 1 at 9P et/pt for the season premiere of Border Wars and another live chat with Nick!***

Border Wars series producer, Nick Stein, was online to share his commentary and answer your questions in an exclusive live chat session during Border WarsDeath on the Rio Grande,” which aired Sunday August 29 at 9P et/pt.

Kolchak Asks:

Was there any technology the border patrol uses that you weren’t allowed to film/show — i.e. “classified” stuff?

Nick Answers:

yes, but if I told ya well I’d have to… well, I just can’t tell ya! :-)

(9:57) Nick watching “Death on the Rio Grande”:

I think this scene demonstrates how, even with amazing technology, it is NOT easy to track down people who are dead set against being caught. For all of you who think it’s an easy thing just to “seal” the border – I hope that after tonight’s show you’ll have a little more respect for the enormity of the task and for the men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to try and secure the border as best they can.

(9:47) Nick watching “Death on the Rio Grande”:

Again, for you camera geeks: The helicopter is equipped with an all-digital, high-definition stabilized airborne thermal imaging system designed for applications demanding a clear, highly detailed imagery critical to law enforcement missions. Now the trick is getting one of my crew in the chopper and my other crew on the ground and hope they end up on the same mission on the same night. Tonight it paid off in spades!!

(9:44) Nick watching “Death on the Rio Grande”:

For you camera buffs, we are shooting this, obviously, at night and to do this we use a camera that uses infrared technology. The camera we use at night is Panasonic AG-DVC30 and it boasts a small built-in infrared light source. It works by shining IR light on the subject and then capturing that light. An IR emitter just below the lens works for anything up to about six feet and we also use an optional IR emitter that mounts on the camera’s handle extending that to a good 15 feet.

(9:42) Nick watching “Death on the Rio Grande”:

Ok, talk about nasty! And yes, me and my cameraman Steve Duval were right in this dirty, stinky, smelly, cold, stagnant mess of a swamp with the agents! It started out not too bad, but the next thing you know we were up to our waists in this horrible water! If you look at the Video Diary part of the Border Wars site you will probably find the video blog I did in the water!! It was nasty and the migrants were cold and miserable. Imagine trying to hide in a place like that. It shows just how desperate for work these guys are!!

NGC Community Moderator Asks:

What are all the different forms of transportation the border patrol uses to patrol the border?

Nick Answers:

In Texas they use river boats, ATVs, horses, SUV’s, Humvees, helicopters, fixed wing aircraft and soon they will have Predator unmanned aerial vehicles. In Arizona they have all that but, of course, no river boats. In San Diego they have all that plus Go Fast Midnight Express (900 Horsepower) Ocean Interceptors and in Florida and Puerto Rico they have those ocean resources plus U.S. Coast Guard Vessels.

(9:36) Nick watching “Death on the Rio Grande”:

These “Ag” (for agriculture) guys are real unsung heroes. Few people ever hear about the work they do, but their job is to protect literally hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland from virulent pests – including these nasty snails!

NGC Community Moderator Asks:

Do you know if it ends up costing a lot of money for us to be constantly returning these migrants to their home countries, especially when they are from further way?

Nick Answers:

Yes, the U.S. government pays for the flights home. I understand they wait till they get a plane full of people before flying them back to, say, Honduras or El Salvador or Brazil.

Kolchak Asks:

Nick — Great show! Looks like you encountered some intense situations while shooting it! Did you or your crew ever feel like you were in danger or concerned for your safety while making the show?

Nick Answers:


Yes, we are in danger almost all the time when you think about it. Running at night in the desert, jumping out of Blackhawk helicopters, riding on the back of ATVs, breaking into stash houses it goes on and on…

(9:30) Nick watching “Death on the Rio Grande”:

A lot of people wonder why the feds don’t prosecute all of the migrants, after all they have broken our immigration laws. The truth is if we prosecuted every migrant with a clean record the criminal justice system would be overwhelmed. Illegal aliens who have a criminal record are dealt with differently – they can be prosecuted for their crimes, serve time, and THEN are turned back over to ICE or the Border Patrol for deportation.

(9:27) Nick watching “Death on the Rio Grande”:

This was amazing. Just when we thought the human smugglers got away, we found out one was hiding next door. He had broken into the neighbor’s house and tried to persuade the woman there to stay quiet, but she did not. These are very dangerous moments for everyone and this sort of thing represents the kind of “spillover” violence we hear so much about.

(9:23) Nick watching “Death on the Rio Grande”:

The conditions inside this trailer were horrendous!! We actually thought we might fall through the floor the place was so rickety. We found people in two rooms that were padlocked from the outside and the agents speculated that they were not going to be moved until their families sent more money. These people were prisoners of the smugglers…

NGC Community Moderator Asks:

If they can’t tell which country a floater is from, is it whichever country finds it takes it to the morgue for analysis?

Nick Answers:

Well 99 times out of a 100 the “floater” has come from Mexico, even if they are not Mexican. After that forensics takes over to look at all manner of evidence as to the identity. You will see that process in the show. This young man was Mexican.

NGC Community Moderator Asks:

What made you decide to cover different locations, and how did you choose the ones that you did?
 
Nick Answers:

We wanted to show that different parts of the border have VERY different challenges. In San Diego they have 2 huge urban areas, Tijuana and San Diego so near to each other, plus the Pacific Ocean. In Texas they have the  Rio Grande River. In Florida and Puerto Rico a whole other series of challenges as where is the border… it’s their whole coasts, it’s virtually everywhere!!

(9:16) Nick watching “Death on the Rio Grande”:

Ok, this was very intense. My cameraman here is Tony Puyol. He is running with a HD camera that weighs about 35 pounds. I have seen him literally outrun Border Patrol agents, but we must be careful, the rule of the road says we must always have an agent between us and the suspect(s).

(9:13) Nick watching “Death on the Rio Grande”:

Even though these agents “try to be numb” believe me when I tell you, this was very disturbing to everyone! What you find out when working at the border is that these men and women are quite compassionate – especially to the migrants – but they have a job to do and they must steel themselves against getting too emotional.

(9:11) Nick watching “Death on the Rio Grande”:

Agent had to hook the pole in the kid’s armpit in order for us to push him to the riverbank.

(9:10) Nick watching “Death on the Rio Grande”:

You are seeing it as we saw it – and believe me, it’s a startling and sobering thing to see a young man floating face down in the river. As we came upon the body, everyone got real quiet.

oldtimer Asks:

how many agents in texas border patrol?

Nick Answers:

I don’t have exact numbers – please go to cbp.gov and they can tell you.

NGC Community Moderator Asks:

What made you decide to do a second season of Border Wars?

Nick Answers:

The main reason was the overwhelming response. The first four shows from Nogales became the highest rated series in the history of the National Geographic Channel.

(9:07) Nick watching “Death on the Rio Grande”:

This trip up river happened on our first day of filming. When we began filming the day had been quite hot, but once on the river, with the sun going down, it quickly cooled off. Also, knowing we were about to try and recover a dead body from the water… well, it got real serious real fast in that boat.

NGC Community Moderator Asks:
 
How can they tell if people are really fishing, scouts or otherwise?

Nick Answers:

It’s all about the agents’ instincts and the answers they get. It’s a constant game of cat and mouse and many US citizens are employed by the cartel and work on the US side – especially in border towns and especially during this recession.

(9:04) Nick watching “Death on the Rio Grande”:

This is a potentially dangerous moment for the agents. The men who have abandoned this load could try and take it back – because the penalty for losing that much dope – which means to the cartel they just lost a lot of money – can be severe back in Mexico.

(9:03) Nick watching “Death on the Rio Grande”:

The ability of the drug smugglers to push literally thousands of pounds of weed across the Rio Grande in a matter of minutes is mind-boggling. I have compared it to a pit crew at a NASCAR race. Precision timing – after their intel has determined that Border Patrol units have left a certain area – is the key. They must make sure there are trucks on both sides of the river – one to deliver the drugs from Mexico the other the take the drugs into the U.S. – and the one on the U.S. side – 9 times out of 10 – is usually a stolen vehicle, one they don’t mind losing if they have to. In a later episode, we’ll actually see the cartel drivers – racing back south, running from Border Patrol agents – plunge their stolen truck right into the river!!


(9:02) Nick watching “Death on the Rio Grande”:

Jose Escobedoa or “Scoobie” is a 20-plus-year veteran of the Border Patrol and a great guy. Everyone on the crew had the utmost respect for him, as did the men and women under his command. Scoobie is a Supervisory Border Patrol Agent working out of the McAllen Station and he’s responsible for all of the agents working that shift. The day we rode with him we responded to a number of calls – one involving a large shipment of marijuana, and the other was the report of a dead body floating in the river – but you’ll see that soon enough…

Interested in continuing the discussion? Head on over to the Border Wars forums and start your own thread!

Comments

  1. ernesto19x
    August 29, 2010, 9:05 pm

    I watch ‘Border Was for 1st time on 8/28/2010, I enjoyed it, its very real. I was at Lukeville,AZ/Sonoita, Sonora back in may/june 2010.

    On my way out, igot the 3rd degree from the CBP agents.

    The questions they asked , i thought to myself; ‘Am i leaving or entering’?

    Where are you coming from and where are you going?

    Do you have any weapons on you? Have you ever been arrested for a crime? Do you have any warrants?

    I could tell they were nervous, at 1 point, 1 of the CPB agents that was a youngster was left alone with me and he asked me to place my hands on the wheel.

    But more about the questions;
    Why are you going to PP? Where are you staying? Do you have family there? How much cash do you have on you? Where do you work? What do you do? Do you own this truck?
    How long have you had this truck? Why are you traveling alone?

    I was on my way to ‘Rocky Point’ as it is called by the folks from AZ, its actually Puerto Penasco, Sonora, Mexico. Its also called the Az Beach by the Americans.

    So i was driving an ford SUV. I was coming from 1 of the southeastern states and of course my plates alarmed the agents.

    So i guess they were not sure if i was mexican or not or they noticed the youn CPB agent was sweating bullets and they brought an agent of Mexican ethnicity to talk to me in Mexican.

    After about 30 mins. of interrogation they allowed me to proceed over to the Mexican customs.

    If you’ve never been to Lukeville,AZ port of entry, it is a lane exit and 4 lane entry. The Mexican entry is about the same but the whole thing is about the size of Quick Trip gas station on both sides.

    Coming back into the US, that i can pwrite a book on. Needless to say i was detained for 1.3 hrs. and my truck was taken somewhere by an agent and returned with a few broken things which i will be filing a complaint on.

  2. oldtimer
    August 30, 2010, 12:40 am

    Can’t wait!

  3. Nick
    August 30, 2010, 12:50 am

    looking forward to it…

  4. oldtimer
    August 30, 2010, 1:03 am

    how many agents work along the texas border?

  5. Kolchak
    August 30, 2010, 1:24 am

    Nick — Great show! Looks like you encountered some intense situations while shooting it! Did you or your crew ever feel like you were in danger or concerned for your safety while making the show?

  6. oldtimer
    August 30, 2010, 1:27 am

    Watching this is amazing, its like this is happening in an entirely different world – closest border to me is Canada

  7. Kolchak
    August 30, 2010, 1:51 am

    Was there any technology the border patrol uses that you weren’t allowed to film/show — i.e. "classified" stuff?

  8. oldtimer
    August 30, 2010, 2:02 am

    awesome episode, thanks!

  9. symond
    September 8, 2010, 3:05 am

    I just wonder if Al Sharpton’s mind is ever going to move beyond the past. All we ever seem to hear from him is whining, whining, whining, with lots of shaming, blaming, victim-baiting thrown in. It’s old to me now and I don’t want to hear it any more. I would have respected him a lot more had he joined his rally to the rally at the Mall. I don’t think he wants harmony and love, ever. I think he wants to keep things stirred up because that’s how he makes his living and probably does pretty good at it. No doubt he makes more than I do as a white man. Time for him to grow out of that and join the party instead of grind against it all the time.
    Rally