Border Wars Diary: Week 1 (April 7 thru April 11)

Border Wars
Premieres Mondays 9P et/pt

Tuesday April 7: Day One
Team A Summary/Point of Entry

The first day of shooting started with a bang — only five minutes into our tour of the DiConcini Point of Entry station we found ourselves in the interrogation room, filming a nervous imposter trying to use a fake ID to get into the country. From there we raced to the other side of Point Of Entry to capture a big drug bust, and then finally, in a bust even jaded patrol officers were excited about, an outgoing truck carrying over 350,000 dollars hidden behind the seats. So breakneck was the action that we didn’t stop for lunch until 6 PM, and finally wrapped 5 hours later, after the last of the money was counted and stacked high, and ready for its close-up.


While taking our tour of the facility, we entered the pedestrian area just in time to see a young Mexican man being escorted into an interrogation room. We followed with our camera and discovered that the man’s actions set off red flags while he was waiting to walk across the border. According to agents, he seemed nervous and contradicted himself several times. It wasn’t long before agents figured out why: his visa showed the picture of someone very different looking than himself. In the interrogation room he soon broke down and confessed that he had purchased someone’s ID in Mexico, thrown out his own and attempted to use it to cross. We followed him while he was searched, handcuffed and taking to the small holding cell to wait for further questioning. There, we asked him in Spanish if he would be willing to be interviewed, but he refused. It gave us a nice opportunity to reveal the inner workings of Point Of Entry.


Still at the Point of Entry, we called over to catch the end result of a car that was just pulled over to be searched. While we missed the first part — two young ladies who got tripped up by an agent’s questions and a sharp nosed canine, we captured the result of the search: kilos of dope, hidden within their rundown Thunderbird. Agents quickly saw some brown bags hidden under the back seat, and pulled them out. Then, the smell of petrol convinced them there might be something else hidden near the gas tank. They put the car on a lift, raised it, and went to work with crow bars and screwdrivers. Soon they found out why the tank was leaking: some clever drug smuggler had rebuilt the gas tank by putting its load in half with metal walls. Instead of petrol, the cavity was filled with additional kilos of dope. By the time the agents were finished the mangled car gave up many pounds of marijuana, and the two ladies (only briefly seen by us, through a window, because ICE would not let us near them) were heading for Tucson, where their American road trip would come to a screeching halt.


If cars come in from South of the Border hiding drugs, then at some point while in the States, the cargo will be transformed to hard currency for the return journey home. We captured this side of the drug trade at the nearby commercial point of entry of Maparaso. After getting a call from agents at the scene, we raced over to find 3 officers ripping apart the back seat of a cherry red pickup. As they did, pack after pack of neatly wrapped US currency was revealed. (Ironically, while this was going on, another fire red truck, caught going into the US, was offering up its cargo of coke 5 feet away). Agents pried out all the packages of dollars, and ripped them open for us to see: stack after stacks of 100s, 50s, 20s and 10 dollar bills. Then, they took the cache and went behind closed doors to count it—three times. (In the interim, no one could enter or leave, so we relied on surveillance cameras to capture the counting). Six hours later the doors opened and we were invited inside to see 350,000 dollars neatly stacked high and ready to be packed off.  (As for the woman driver, we were unable to videotape her, because ICE had already taken her away, and once again, they would not let us film her).


  1. Marspolarlander
    January 12, 2010, 5:49 pm

    This is a splendid series. Only NATGEO can present this information that affects our national security in such a professional manner. Bravo, NATGEO.

  2. davidshks1985
    January 13, 2010, 10:27 pm

    Thanks to the brave men and women that protect this country. An excellent demonstration of what happens every day on our borders.