The Return of Nick Stein

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***The Live Chat is now over. Thank you for following along! You can read the discussion that occurred tonight below. Come back here Wednesday September 8 at 9P et for next week’s premiere of Border Wars and another live chat with Nick!***

During the premiere of Border Wars: Checkpoint Texas we had Series Producer Nick Stein here to share his commentary during the show, chat, mingle, exchange pleasantries, and answer all your questions on anything and everything Border Wars!

(9:59) Nick watching “Checkpoint Texas”:

The National Geographic Crew chowed down pretty good too when they initiated the young K9 agent into the 1K club  – and believe me, my crew can get mighty hungry trying to keep up with these amazing agents and officers!!

NGC Community Moderator Asked in Sunday’s Chat:

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

Nick Answered:

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.

(9:49) Nick watching “Checkpoint Texas”:

As you can imagine, at this point your heart is beating fast and your adrenaline is pumping and you’re thinking to yourself – wow – what a weird way to make a living!! Border Wars has been an amazing adventure for all of us that’s for sure!!

Nick explained in Sunday’s chat:

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.

khoren334 Asks:

Hi i was just wondering what they do with all the drugs they catch?

Nick Answers:

That will be answered in our Laredo episode in November and December when the DEA allowed us to see (exclusively) how they transport and destroy thousands of pounds of narcotics!!

kspeiser Asks:

hi, great fan of the show. “?”. when catching up with the illegals on someone’s farm why arrest right away, has there been a situation where an agent will accompany the the illegals to the pickup point and catch the smuggler(s) (sting ops)? I’m curious to know if this tactic is used.

Nick Answers:

That’s a great question. In the open field they try and catch them as soon as they can as it’s too easy to lose them… but is an upcoming episode from San Diego we will see them let an “impostor” – a person with a forged documents – thru the Port of Entry (at San Ysidro) into the US and then – in a STING OPERATION – follow them till they meet up with others in the smuggling ring and then bust 6 or 7 people!!

NGC Community Moderator Asked in Sunday’s Chat:

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

Nick Answered:

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!!

NGC Community Moderator Asked in Sunday’s Chat:

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

Nick Answered:

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.

***Note from the moderator: answers to questions on their way, please keep them coming! Recommended just means you like this blog and makes it show higher in results if recommended often enough!***

(9:39) Nick watching “Checkpoint Texas”:

The guides are also called coyotes. “Coyotes” are the name for smugglers who facilitate the migration of people across the U.S. border. Once dominated by local “Coyotes” charging relatively small sums, the business landscape has changed as larger, well-organized syndicates have entered the smuggling industry in Mexico. Over the years, Coyotes have become more sophisticated in their operations, as technological advances have allowed them to streamline and add further complexity to their business. The practice of people smuggling has seen a rise over the past few decades and today now accounts for a significant portion of illegal immigration in countries around the world. People smuggling generally takes place with the consent of the person or persons being smuggled, and common reasons for individuals seeking to be smuggled include employment and economic opportunity, personal and/or familial betterment, and escape from persecution or conflict.

Nick explained in Sunday’s chat:

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.

(9:32) Nick watching “Checkpoint Texas”:

The technology is fascinating and the sophisticated X-Ray gear really helps these guys to their jobs!!

(9:29) Nick watching “Checkpoint Texas”:

A big shout out to my extraordinary cameraman Tony Puyol who conducted this amazing interview in Spanish with the woman from Ecuador. He has an uncanny way of making people feel comfortable telling their stories even when they are in the middle of their own personal crisis. We on Border Wars try very hard to talk to the migrants and hear what they have to say about their lives and their journeys. Without Tony and Natalia Baldwin (field producer and our other Spanish speaker) we’d have a tough time getting this incredibly important point of view.

NGC Community Moderator Asks:

Did they not mean to drive the van into the river? How does the water not ruin the drugs?

Nick Answers:

When a truck full of dope is loaded up on the US side of the river, it will quickly try and make it to a stash house to unload. If the Border Patrol (or other law enforecement) gets on to them, the drivers (and they are all cartel members called mules) will U turn back to the river and drive the truck RIGHT INTO THE RIVER (!)  – while bailing out and swimming! Meanwhile, their compatriots will dive into the water and – because these bales of marijuana are designed to be waterproof and float – try and retrieve the cargo and get it back to Mexico. Now remember – nearly every pick up truck used on the US side is a STOLEN vehicle, so these guys have no problem driving that sucker right into the river. Hey it ain’t their ride!! One more thing, the favorite truck for the cartels to steal and use for running dope – a Ford F-150 or Ford F-250 Super Duty with heavy duty shocks!

(9:25) Nick watching “Checkpoint Texas”:

Thanks to CBP for this amazing footage. We could be on location for a year and never capture such a clear picture of exactly how this smuggling operations work across the Rio Grande.

NGC Community Moderator Asked in Sunday’s Chat:

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

Nick Answered:

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.

Nick explained in Sunday’s chat:

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.

(9:21) Nick watching “Checkpoint Texas”:

Illegal undocumented workers are from as far away as Afghanistan, Armenia, Bosnia, Egypt, Ghana, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Kenya, Morocco, Pakistan, Sudan, Uzbekistan, Yemen, Botswana, Turkey and many other countries. Based on U.S. Border Patrol statistics, there were 30,147 OTMs (Other than Mexican) apprehended in fiscal year 2003; 44, 614 in fiscal year 2004; 165,178 in fiscal year 2005; and 108,025 in fiscal year 2006. Most were caught along the U.S. Southwest border.

(9:16) Nick watching “Checkpoint Texas”:

This really was unbelievable and I don’t think any other TV crew has filmed a scene like this. These guys (the drug smugglers) are like a pit crew in the Indy 500 – they can move thousands of pounds of dope across the river and into a waiting truck in a matter of minutes and to actually film this “deal gone bad” was amazing!!

NGC Community Moderator Asks:

How do the guides/coyotes get to know the land so well? Do they often have dual citizenship or how do they spend enough time in both to know it?

Nick Answers:

The Coyotes can be Mexican or U.S. citizens, either way, these days, they are paid by the cartels. The cartels fight for the opportunity to “own” different sections of the border or “plazas”.  These guides more and more have smart phone with GPS and other technology that help them bring groups of undocumented workers (or dope) across. No one gets thru without paying for a guide and if they try to cross on their own the consequences can be lethal.

NGC Community Moderator Asks:

How do the volunteers get along with the Border Patrol?

Nick Answers:

I can only talk about this group – The Texas Border Volunteers. They say they broke away from the local Minute Men organization and maybe it’s because they (the TBV) do support law enforcement so much. This group is VERY Border Patrol friendly and the Border Patrol appreciates their non-intrusive vigilance; just like they appreciate ANY citizen who might contact them with useful information.

(9:06) Nick watching “Checkpoint Texas”:

We found the Texas Border Volunteers to be a very responsible group who were all about helping Border Patrol. In fact the Mission of TBV is to assist law enforcement officials with securing the border, upholding the rule of law and educating the general public with regard to immigration issues. The Texas Border Volunteers regularly conduct watches in South Texas. Teams are deployed on private property and report trespassers to the Border Patrol.

(9:05) Nick watching “Checkpoint Texas”:

The station’s primary responsibility is to maintain traffic check operations to detect and apprehend terrorists and/or their weapons of mass effect as well to prevent the passage of illegal aliens and/or contraband from the border area to major cities in the interior of the United States via U.S. Highway 281. Large private ranches encompass the entire area of responsibility. The King Ranch owns practically all of the ranchland on the eastside of U.S. Highway 281. Several other large ranches control the remainder of land on the west side.

(9:03) Nick watching “Checkpoint Texas”:

Falfurrias, Texas is located 70 miles north of the Rio Grande River on Hwy 281. Hwy 281 is in corridor two of the Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Sector. Corridor two remains the heaviest area of alien and narcotic traffic. Falfurrias Station’s area of responsibility encompasses 1,105 square miles of primarily privately owned ranch land. The terrain is rough, brush and crude vegetation with numerous mesquite and oak trees.

(9:01) Nick watching “Checkpoint Texas”:

You cannot believe how effective these dogs are! They can smell money, drugs, people and their accuracy is amazing. The Border Patrol and the men and women at the ports of entry could not do their job without their trusty and loyal K9!!

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

Check out last week’s chat with Nick Stein here »

What are Nick and the crew up to? Check out the new video blogs here »


  1. kspeiser
    September 2, 2010, 1:29 am

    hi, great fan of the show. "?". when catching up with the illegals on someone’s farm why arrest right away, has there been a situation where an agent will accompany the the illegals to the pickup point and catch the smuggler(s) (sting ops)? I’m curious to know if this tactic is used.

  2. khoren334
    September 2, 2010, 1:30 am

    Hi i was just wondering what they do with all the drugs they catch?

  3. kspeiser
    September 2, 2010, 1:38 am

    I clicked "recommend" without knowing what it means, what does it mean? (sorry)

  4. kspeiser
    September 2, 2010, 1:53 am

    wow! thanks for the answer. I’m sure the agents don’t get enough credit, but we (common folk) really appreciate what they do and risk for our safety and livelyhood! God Bless all involved!!!

  5. alpha
    September 2, 2010, 2:25 am

    I hope the officer catch the bad guys,,,i feel sorry for this people,,,they just trying to get a better life,,,I came to this country bout 16 years ago, and now i have a better life here,,,(there is one think that i hate is that that guy from arizona,,,joe alpha hate the m f..he threat people like animals….but well,,,im proud that my people from my country went to iraq and help american soldiers,godbless americans soldiers and salvadoran army(DIOS UNION LIBERTAD),,,,,,AND GODBLESS AMERICA,,,RESPECT…TO THE ARMY,,,,…

  6. Gunther
    September 2, 2010, 7:03 pm

    This is an incredibly difficult show to produce. The logistics and physical hardships are enormous. Thanks to Nick and the crew for all of your hard work.