Mexico: Crimes at the Border

Mexico: Crimes at the Border


"Rafael," a Human Smuggler

“Rafael,” a smuggler from Mexico who requests that his real identity remain anonymous, gives FRONTLINE/World a rare inside account of the pollero trade and explains how the business of human smuggling has changed – and thrives – after 9/11. He also responds to the U.S. government’s latest effort to stop illegal immigrants -- a 852-mile, multibillion-dollar barrier. “It doesn’t matter how tall the wall is,” he says. “They’ll just dig a hole. You will never stop people from getting across to the United States.”
Andy Black, FBI Special Agent

Andy Black

FBI Supervisor Andy Black heads the Border Corruption Task Force in San Diego. He tells FRONTLINE/World correspondent Lowell Bergman how the lucrative business of human smuggling is subjecting U.S. border officers to an increased risk of corruption. He also discusses the fallout from the arrest of Michael Gilliland, a veteran border inspector convicted of participating in a human smuggling ring on the U.S.- Mexico border. Black responds to those who say the human smuggling business is not a national security threat.
Edward Archuleta

Edward Archuleta

Edward Archuleta is a special agent investigating corruption with the Customs and Border Protection Office of Internal Affairs based in San Diego. In this interview with Andrew Becker, Archuleta recalls events leading up to the arrest of Michael Gilliland, a veteran and well-liked U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer, who was convicted of accepting bribes from a human smuggling ring at the US-Mexico border. He also describes how an alphabet soup of federal agencies is trying to combat the growing numbers of U.S. border corruption cases associated with human smuggling. The interview took place in San Diego on March 28, 2008, and has been edited for clarity.
photo Terry Reed

Terry Reed

Terry Reed joined the FBI as part of the Border Corruption Task Force in 2004. The first big corruption case to cross his desk was that of Michael Gilliland, a San Diego-based U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer now serving five years in federal prison. In this interview with correspondent Lowell Bergman, Reed reveals details of two separate two-year sting operations that exposed Gilliland and another U.S. customs officer, Richard Elizalda. The investigations show that both men began intimate relationships with women in the smuggling groups and that Gilliland received tens of thousands of dollars in bribes to wave through illegal immigrants during his work shift.
photo of wayne cornelius

Wayne Cornelius

Described by The Nation magazine as “the nation’s foremost academic expert on Mexican migration,” Wayne A. Cornelius founded the University of California at San Diego's Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies in 1979 and directed it from 1979 to1994 and again from 2001 to the present. He is also the founding director of UCSD's Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, established in 1999, which conducts comparative research on international migration and refugee movements. Here, he talks with FRONTLINE/World producers about the new methods migrants are using to get into the country and the growth of human smuggling organizations, one of the unintended consequences of border fortification.
photo of Duncan Hunter

Duncan Hunter

Representative Duncan Hunter, a Republican congressman from San Diego, and a ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, helped spearhead legislation to build a secure barrier along the California-Mexico border. He tells FRONTLINE/World correspondent Lowell Bergman that small, completed portions of the fence have already affected the rate of illegal immigrants attempting to cross, reducing arrests by more than 90 percent in some areas. He also responds to critics who say that the barrier has only made the human smuggling business more lucrative and pervasive. Hunter also helped to shepherd the Secure Fence Act through Congress in 2006, which provided for an additional 700 miles of fence to be built across the border with Mexico.
photo of Victor Clark

Victor Clark

Victor Clark Alfaro is director of the Binational Center for Human Rights in Tijuana and a lecturer in the Latin American Studies Department at San Diego State University. He has been studying human smuggling patterns across the U.S.-Mexico border for more than 20 years. In this interview with Lowell Bergman, he describes how the smuggling business has changed over several generations of “coyotes.”

Miguel "Mike" Unzuetta

Miguel “Mike” Unzueta works as the special agent in charge (SAC) of the San Diego office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He spent the early part of his career working on a narcotics task force, but, since 9/11, his job and his office have focused more on immigration issues. Here, he talks with FRONTLINE/World producers about the threat of corruption among border agents, the organizational make-up of human smuggling groups and the difficulty of containing such a large problem.