***The live chat is now over! Please read below for the discussion that occurred.*** Series Producer Nick Stein was with us for the premiere of the all-new episode of Border Wars: “Contraband Highway“. Nick shared his commentary and took your questions during the show.
(9:56) Nick watching “Contraband Highway”:
According to the DEA:
Methamphetamine is abused for its stimulant and euphoric effects. It can be taken orally, snorted, smoked, and injected. Smoking or injecting methamphetamine results in intense euphoria and is often associated with binge use, large escalation in dose with rapid tissue tolerance, and high rates of dependence and addiction. “Ice,” “Glass,” and “Crystal” are all terms for concentrated d-methamphetamine HCl chunks that are smoked. Mexican drug trafficking organizations have become the primary manufacturers and distributors of methamphetamine to cities in the Midwest and West. These criminal organizations are able to supply large amounts of methamphetamine at high purity and low cost. Domestic independent laboratory operators also produce and distribute methamphetamine but usually on a smaller scale. These domestic laboratories have proliferated, spreading from the West Coast to the East Coast.
(9:48) Nick watching “Contraband Highway”:
These men and women at ports are amazing. The smugglers go to such extreme and creative lengths to hide their contraband and somehow, the CBP officers can find things that would seem impossible to find!!!
(9:36) Nick watching “Contraband Highway”:
It’s always heartbreaking to see people who are caught up in a border crossing crime as you never do know how much they know about their role in it…. and the answer may not be clear for months… or ever. This woman’s story (that her ex husband put her up to it and she did not know what she was carrying into the U.S.) seemed very believable but you really never know.
Does your crews face some of the same threats/fears that the reporter your featuring does?
To be honest with you, by the time we were wrapping production in McAllen, I was feeling quite nervous and concerned that people would know what hotel we were staying in. Let’s just say we were more than ready to leave town.
(9:29) Nick watching “Contraband Highway”:
I must give a shout out to my crew for their amazing filming of this extended BORTAC lay in. This stealth mission went on for hours and hours, in the hot sun, with ants and mosquitoes everywhere and without them being able to make a sound for fear of compromising the mission. They were dug in and camouflaged and feeling they were absolutely part of this forward Intel assignment.
(9:25) Nick watching “Contraband Highway”:
Victor Castillo, captured some incredible footage at the river that day and shared it with us – at no small risk to himself. As you’ll hear, he has left TV reporting and taken up another vocation – but he still loves journalism and hopes to return to it one day – when it’s safer.NGC Community Moderator Asks:
Does the boat have to land in order for it to be legal to grab them?
The international boundary is actually right in the middle of the river, but it’s very rare that a Border Patrol agent (without a boat) will actually go into river to make an arrest – it’s just too dangerous.
What’s the strangest, most out-there, “X-Files” kind of thing you’ve seen out on the border while filming this show? More seriously, given cartel activity near the border, etc. — what the most dangerous, life-threatening situation you and your crew experienced while making the show?
We are not dealing with extraterrestrial “aliens”. As to your next question, we were high in the mountains west of Nogales, Arizona; at 2am in the morning and a group of bandits shot at us. We heard the bullet go over our heads and a border patrol agent we were with simply said, “That’s not good.”
(9:17) Nick watching “Contraband Highway”:
Since its inception in 1984, BORTAC has developed a reputation in the special operations community as one of the premier tactical units in law enforcement. The Unit has continued to expand its scope and capabilities to address the growing threats to the United States and its interests abroad. Each year, it continually receives support requests from both U.S. and foreign military and law enforcement entities. To date, BORTAC members have operated in 28 countries around the world. Missions have included international training/advisory functions, counter terrorism operations, counter narcotics operations, high-risk warrant service, dignitary protection, interdiction & patrol operations, and tactical training to other U.S. agencies and military units.
(9:16) Nick watching “Contraband Highway”:
The mayors of Hidalgo and Reynosa continued a long standing annual tradition on this day by meeting in the middle of the international bridge linking their cities for a brotherly embrace and an exchange of gifts. But the celebration of municipal unity surrounding the abrazo, or hug, was notably different from those of recent years as nerves on both sides of the border remain frayed due to the recent outbreak of deadly, cartel-related violence in Northern Tamaulipas. After the brief speeches, the mayors exchanged gifts with one another. One hour later, in Reynosa, and after a breakfast of Mexican-style scrambled eggs – with chopped tomatoes, onions and serrano peppers – and poached beef tongue, the small contingent from the U.S. side walked back across the bridge to Hidalgo.
How big is your crew? Also, with you being the producer do you have prior Law Enforcement history?
I actually have two crews, two small crews I guess. Each one consisting of a cameraman and a sound man. I also have another field producer as well as an associate producer. This allows us to be in two places at once and we’re always ready to respond to a cell phone call about any actionable event. As to my law enforcement history, I got a speeding ticket once.
NGC Community Moderator Asks:
Is the ease of distribution worth the drug dealers packaging it that way on themselves when surely they know it’s self-incriminating?
This guy was probably a relatively low level dealer and no doubt his customers would drive by to pick up their fix – but then again, it’s hard to know if – at times – he might move much larger quantities. I would guess he was working at both the wholesale and retail level.
(9:09) Nick watching “Contraband Highway”:
This raid was well coordinated and fascinating to document. These officers and agents take no chances and come in with overwhelming force. They never know if the suspect will be armed and willing to fight.
Are the CBP and Border Patrol Two different agencies or One Agency and separate divisions?
The operational units of the CBP include Border Patrol, the Office of Field Operations (the men and women at the POE — Ports of Entry), and the Office of Air and Marine. We think of them as the Green, the Blue and the Tan as that is the color of their uniforms.
NGC Community Moderator Asks:
I understand the journalists being afraid to report where shoot-outs are occurring but shouldn’t the government be conveying this information to the people?
Just like the US government, the Mexican government uses the media to get their message out, but more and more, journalist in Mexico can only report on Government press releases as they cannot risk doing their own independent reporting of the situation… it’s just too dangerous.(9:05) Nick watching “Contraband Highway”:
We met Victor Castillo almost by accident – he was covering a story with his cameraman and we struck up a conversation (as often happens between crews) and he agreed to meet us later. We realized that he was in a unique position to help us understand just how bad the violence was across the river because he grew up there (he’s now an American citizen) and had many friends who were journalists.
(9:02) Nick watching “Contraband Highway”:
The truth is my crew and I were taking a quiet moment to finally get our laundry done – at a local laundra-mat near our hotel – when we got a cell phone call that CBP officers had an SUV and had found a loaded magazine. The port officers at that bridge suspected this vehicle might be full of weapons. We raced to the scene – got there in about 10 minutes, leaving our laundry behind. As soon as we arrived we began filming. This was the first south-bound weapons seizure we had found and it was sobering to see these kinds of lethal automatic weapons going from the US into Mexico.NGC Community Moderator Asks:
Who is generally trying to get money and weapons south? Just average Americans trying to make a little money or what? Or do the cartels send people into the U.S. to retrieve it and come back?
The money going south is all “dirty money”… it’s profits from the narco trade or human smuggling. The people who transport it back south to Mexico are under the employ of the cartels – whether they be U.S. citizens of Mexican nationals. I am sure some of them are sent from the cartels in Mexico to retrieve it…