Mexico: Crimes at the Border
Video and Synopsis

Mexico: Crimes at the Border

In a cemetery in the border town of Tijuana, there is a shrine to a young soldier, Juan Soldado, who is the patron saint for migrants trying to cross
illegally into the United States. It’s the place where FRONTLINE/World reporter Lowell Bergman arranges to meet a smuggler, or pollero, who has agreed to talk about the business of human smuggling on condition that we not reveal his identity. We call him “Rafael.” He’s been a smuggler for ten years and he tells Bergman how he got started in the business.

“I had this friend who had a lot of money and he was like 16 and I was like 18 at the time and I was like, dude, how did you make all that money?” recalls Rafael. “He didn’t want to tell me at first, and then when he told me, I didn’t believe him. So he took me to the people and they offered me a job too.”

To show how the smuggling business works, Rafael drives Bergman around Tijuana, which, though peaceful during the day, has turned into one of the most dangerous cities in Mexico due to the drug trade and human trafficking. Rafael says danger is part of the allure of the business – “an adrenaline rush” when he sneaks people across the border.

Since 9/11, Rafael says that the U.S. has tightened security along the border, but he says the smugglers have learned to adjust, finding more sophisticated hiding places in their vehicles for the migrants they are transporting, creating false documents to show border guards, and charging their clients more for their services.

“Now more than ever,” says Bergman, “most migrants need the help of a smuggler to get across the border – making them indispensable. As a result the smugglers say they’re making more money than ever.”

In the past, illegal migrants crossed the border at spots where they were less likely to be spotted – sometimes risking long treks through the desert. But the U.S. government is spending billions to build up a border fence, fortified by surveillance cameras, bright lights and many more border guards. So an increasing number of people who enter the U.S. illegally do so through the regular Ports of Entry with the help of professional smugglers.

At the San Ysidro Port of Entry – between Tijuana and San Diego – over 100,000 people cross every day. It’s the busiest land border crossing in the world. The sheer volume of traffic makes it impossible for U.S. border guards to check every vehicle and every document. If they did, the border would shut down.

And if the inspectors do spot a fake ID or uncover migrants hidden in car trunks, the repercussions are minimal, even for the smugglers, because the courts cannot possibly handle the number of cases. Buses carry the illegal migrants who are caught back across the border, where they usually turn around and try again. That goes for the smugglers, too. Rafael says he was caught smuggling once, but was quickly released.

There is one guaranteed way for migrants to get across on their first try, says Rafael – if a smuggling operation is able to bribe a U.S. border official.

“I have known inspectors that are crooked,” asserts Rafael. “But you would never talk about them and you will never say you have one, because it’s your golden meal ticket because those are like very, very hard to catch. They would make a lot of money because it’s failsafe, it’s secure.”

Terry Reed, an FBI agent in San Diego, is part of a Border Corruption Task Force and he acknowledges that the problem of corrupt border guards is growing. He recounts one of the most important cases, which started with a tip from an informant who alleged that a guard at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry known as El Guero – “the white guy” or “the blond” – was working with a smuggling operation. It wasn’t much to go on. Then, a year later, another tip led to a woman named Aurora Torres, who was a suspected smuggler. Reed set-up a sting operation. At a meeting in a McDonald’s in San Diego, which was secretly videotaped, Torres agreed to transport a client across the border, saying it was a sure thing because she was working with an officer at the Otay Mesa port. What she didn’t know was that the client was an undercover FBI operative. When he was driven to the border, the operative says a blond Customs Inspector quickly waved their car through.

Reed’s undercover operation tracked Torres as she took her group of illegal immigrants, and the FBI plant, to a San Diego suburb, to what is known in the trade as a “load house,” a place where smugglers hold the migrants until a relative or friend arrives to pay the required smuggling fee. A member of Reed’s team, posing as a relative, showed up to pay $3,500 to pick up their operative. Later, the operative told his FBI handlers that he’d read the name on the badge of the guard who waved them through: It was “Gilliland.” 

At the time, Michael Gilliland, a former Marine, was a decorated Customs and Border Protection inspector with 16 years experience. Investigators began to follow him and wiretap his phone calls, including calls from Aurora Torres, the leader of the smuggling group. “From these wiretaps, obtained by FRONTLINE/World, it appears the two [Torres and Gilliland] were having an intimate relationship,” says Bergman. “The FBI told me that it’s a well-known tactic that smugglers use sex to entice border agents into compromising relationships.”

Still, the FBI needed proof that Gilliland was taking bribes. They managed to record surveillance video of Gilliland entering Torres’ residence, then leaving carrying a plastic bag. “He was coming to pick up his money,” says Reed.

A month later the FBI videotaped Gilliland waving cars through his lane at the Port of Entry, not looking at identification, not asking questions, not searching cars. One of the vehicles caught on the tape --  a black GMC Yukon -- was driven by Torres with 11 illegal immigrants inside. The FBI finally had all the evidence they needed. They arrested Gilliland and Torres.

“Rafael,” the smuggler, tells Bergman that a lot of different families are involved in the smuggling trade these days, like Torres. He says the small operations pay off organized crime in Tijuana to allow them to operate.

“These smuggling groups can afford it,” reports Bergman. “When Torres was arrested, the FBI found nearly half a million dollars in a safe in her bedroom. She pled guilty to smuggling and was sentenced to three and a half years in federal prison.”

Gilliland also pled guilty to accepting approximately $100,000 in bribe money. He was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay a $200,000 fine. But no one knows how many illegal migrants he let into the country or how much money he made. 

And Gilliland is only one of many such cases. Federal officials say there have been over a hundred similar busts in the last five years. Just this month a guard was arrested at the same Otay Mesa Port of Entry where Gilliland worked. There are now nearly 200 open investigations of corruption along the U.S. border with Mexico.

“There’s more pressure on the other side of the border from the smuggling organizations to elicit the help of a corrupt border official,” says FBI agent Andy Black.  “The pool of individuals who are susceptible to corruption has grown.”

FRONTLINE/World made numerous requests to interview the man in charge of all border issues, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, but he declined. At a press conference, where Bergman finally catches up with him, Chertoff says the bigger the police force on the border, the more corruption cases there will be.

San Diego Congressman Duncan Hunter, an advocate of building an 800-mile fence along the Mexican border, says it’s “tragic” that some border guards succumb to corruption, but that the government should continue to fortify the border. But University of California at San Diego immigration expert Wayne Cornelius suggests this is futile. His study indicates that 97% of the people who try to cross the border eventually succeed, despite all the obstacles. “If they don’t succeed on the first try, they almost certainly will succeed on the second or the third try,” says Cornelius.

Back In Tijuana, “Rafael,” the smuggler, tells Bergman he’s not worried about going out of business any time soon, due to a U.S. clampdown on the border.  “The smuggling people business, the pollero business, will stop only when there are no borders,” he argues. “Unless you can stop poverty or hunger, it will never stop, because people will always want to help their families. Doesn’t matter how tall the wall is, they will just dig a hole then.  So you will never stop people getting across [into] the United States.”



share your reactions

John Warren
Seattle, wa

Having lived on the border with Mexico for close to 30 yrs., I think the only thing that will stem the flow of illegal aliens or drugs into this country is to deal with the issue at hand.

As far as drugs are concerned, as long as Americans keep using drugs, they will be on our streets, and the cartels will rake in billions. No amount of jail sentences, or border patrol personel will change that fact.

When it comes to illegal immigration, people will continue to come here until the economies in their homelands can provide them with employment that compensates them sufficiently to feed their families, and educate their children.

Thousands of miles of fencing will not change either of these facts. Deportation does not work, either, they just come back.

Finally, the people that live on the border live in an area that is not really Mexico, and not really the United States. There might be a line on a map, but that's the only place it really exists. It's funny the outrage that comes out of places far removed from the border. They know not of which they speak.

Buckley Rush
Clarksburg, WV

On upon the hire of any Federal Agent their should be a contract written that agree's if upon the time it is breached they shall be placed in a Federal prison for life without paroll for violating and endangering the country of the United States .

veronica padilla
Gridley, ca

Actually it is the corrupt Mexican government's fault. They treat the Mexican people bad and the Indians bad, this is not new. And yes the Mexicans do all the work for little pay because they have families to feed. And yes, they do contribute to the U.S. economy. When they buy groceries, pay PG&E, phone, water, rent and car registrations. They spend a lot of money in the U.S. Do you think the whites would do the work for little pay and no benefits? NO! If you really want to fix the problem, the U.S needs to close the border completely and force Mexico to change the government and actually help their country.

If you sent all the Mexicans back, all the white people wouldn't know what to do because the U.S. economy would be in crisis. Who picks your salad? Who washes your car at the car wash? Who picks your peaches,strawberries, walnuts,cherries and apples? Who mows you lawn?

san diego, california

Please keep in mind that not all illegal immigrants come from Mexico. We have many other countries that use Mexico as their bridge. The need to be in the states is worldwide.

Ramadan Mussa
Minneapolis, Minnesota

This video really opened my mind to look at immigration issues in new ways. I'm currently doing research on Mexican migrant farm workers and how they end up in the US. This video helped me to have a deeper understanding of border issues. Thank you PBS members and contributors.

Chicago, IL
Go after employers. Its the solution to the problem. I also believe that police should be able to detain anyone they encounter that is not legal.

San Mateo, CA
I really do enjoy Frontline, but you've missed the boat on this issue. Next time, consider honestly portraying the American employers who hire these subjects and the need for these same peoples to rectify the issues at hand (political, social, economic) in their own country. I agree to disagree.

downey, ca

America has taken away many states from Mexico. What right do we have to prevent people from coming over the border?

When something is made illegal it will forever make a market to counter the illegal law. Make drugs illegal and you create drug dealers. Make crossing the border illegal you will forever have coyotes.

Think about Holland. Every drug is legal and they have the lowest crime and the best schools and health care.

los angeles, california
I am an American raised by Spanish. Do you really think Mexicans are really living the good life? You think standing in the sun burning their ass is living the life? Whoa, I don't know about you but that's not life, its hell. Oh yeah, and maybe if you Americans went to school your jobs wouldn't be taken away. I am not Mexican but I am Puerto Rican. Mexicans aren't the only ones that come here illegaly. You need a reality check. Salvadorans come to the U.S and so do others. Spanish people are hard workers. Don't blame them for that. You Americans don't say so when you guys go with blacks, do you? So maybe you people should check yourselves.

M Castillo
Phoenix, Arizona

First of all, I did like this segment. It expressed many things that I have been saying for quite some time. One thing that I wish you would have touched on is how hard it is for a Mexican to actualy get into this country legally. I personaly am the daughter of a US soldier, and am as white as they come, blonde hair blue eyes-so I'm not hispanic or of hispanic descent. However, I met and fell in love with a man here in Arizona, and after several months together we married. We have been married for 5 years. When I met him, my first question to him was not-"are you here legaly?" He was here working illegaly. Since then I have petitioned EVERY YEAR for a visa for MY HUSBAND and have been turned down EVERY YEAR. By the way, the costs of going through the legal motion every year(yes, you have to pay EVERY time you get turned down, and then pay again to re-do it) are around $2,000, and that doesn't include the time I have to take off of work or the trips that I have to make to Mexico every time I want to be with my husband. I even moved to Mexico for a year to be with him. Unfortunately, with the very poor economy in Mexico, we could no longer live with both of us down there-I had to return here to work. I will not lie- I would most definetly pay "Rafael" the $1,500 this year to bring my husband to me instead of the $2,000 to have my government tell me once again that I cannot be with my husband.
"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" (Emma Lazarus, 1883, plaque placed on pedestal of Statue of Liberty) By the way, the pilgrims were the first ever illegal immigrants in the United States.

Maya Brandon
Princeton Jct., NJ

Microfinancing might prove more viable against the problem than building electronic fences with electronic surveillance systems policed by thousands of armed guards along North America's borders. Extreme poverty and lack of opportunity is at the heart of this very complex issue of illegal immigration.

After reading the two opposing views posted in the viewer reactions, I can only conclude that one group wants to mow down the illegals before they come in and the other side says who will be left to clean up the mess that Americans dont want to clean? Its a no win situation. Immigrants keep inflation low. So all of you can afford to buy your daily Starbucks coffee!! oops it may be served by a Latino baristta, what a dilemma.

San Diego, CA

For Frontline this was an extremely superficial report. The naming of officers that had been prosecuted in the past was distasteful and on par with CNN or any local television 'newstainment.'

I am a fifth generation San Diegan and can trace my roots in this country back to before it was independent. I am American as a white man can claim to be, and am proud to say 'welcome' to all those who want to live here.

As child, living just fifteen minutes away from the border crossing by freeway, I never quite understood the border situation. I have never heard a convincing answer to why we should keep people out, or to the larger question of why there should be borders in the first place. Immigrants are the main reason that this country is as strong as it is.

Shannon McGauley
Arlington, Texas

Very good work! I'm planning a fact finding operation in the Marfa Sector this August if you would like to come out. Frontline should be proud of this series.

Bob Holmgren
Menlo Park, CA

Lowell Bergman saved all the tough questions for Duncan Hunter--who proceeded to make Bergman look like a fool by claiming that the border fence was not stopping illegal crossings AND that it was too difficult for people to return across the border.

Bruce Citizen
Marin County, CA

Mexico needs to take care of its citizens. . .the Catholic Church needs to wake up their penitents about birth control. . .and the US needs to protect its borders. The US is going to collapse under the economic and cultural weight of the uneducated/well-intentioned people.

It's like a sinking lifeboat. We can't take them all. Stop hiring them. They'll take our jobs, not pay taxes, bankrupt our hospitals and criminal justice system.

Illegals have limited choices. Since breaking the law to get here is "no big deal" the next illegal actions are easy.

Press one for English.

Santa Cruz, California
Illegal immigration can never be effectively controlled just at the border. Without interior enforcement, including the absolutely essential workplace enforcement, it will always be more of a game, expensive and dangerous, and a political ploy designed to appeal to the wishes of the electorate to control illegal immigration while satisfying the elites in the country by doing the opposite. This was true when Bill Clinton began Operation Gatekeeper in response to Proposition 187 while passing rules that rewarded illegal immigrants for eventually successfully beating the border game. And it remains true today with the Bush administration despite being dragged kicking and screaming into token enforcement measures.

Border enforcement, which raises the costs of getting in, must be coupled with reducing the rewards available for being in the country illegally. Ask yourself how useful car theft prevention would be if, once stolen, thieves were essentially entitled to keep them. The problem with border enforcement is that is effectively what illegal immigrants can expect, created and supported by the liberal elite media's yellow journalism on the issue.

J Johnson
Plano, TX

Why did illegal immigration in increase in the '50s and '60s despite the existence of a guest worker program? The "Immigration Timeline" suggests that it was because the guest worker program was reduced. What about the states of the US and Mexican economies? As long as the US economy is much better off than the Mexican economy--or other countries' economies-- there will be strong reasons for people to want to come and work in the US. We need to learn how to live with it. Having said that, it is not good to have a nation built on the rule of law to suffer constant violations of those laws. Both the laws and the practices of immigrants, companies, gangs, etc. need to change.

J Brown
Riverside, California

While I normally enjoy Frontline's reporting this project was not done in the fair and equitable manner I have come to expect. The wall has drastically cut the number of illegal immigrants along certain sectors of the border. Opponents say these illegal immigrants have merely been funneled into the more remote deserts and mountains of Arizona and New Mexico. However, it is wrong for high-minded academics like Wayne Cornelius to condemn the border fence when only tiny sections have been built. Borders can and must be enforced. Just look at Israel's separation barrier or Mexico's highly militarized frontier with Guatemala. Americans are willing to do the jobs illegal immigrants do, just not for $6 an hour with no benefits. The key to creating a sustainable society with universal healthcare and living wages starts with shutting off the flow of illegal labor that makes America poorer, not richer. Those on this forum advocating open borders and the timeless "these people just want a better life" should contemplate the lives of America's poor who must compete day after day with illegal immigrants for $6 jobs with no benefits in the slaughterhouses and garment factories of America.

Ray Carpenter
Maricopa County, Arizona

According to recent public statements by Border Patrol personnel the fences near San Diego and Yuma are working effectively to significantly reduce the flow of illegals across our Southern border. That's quite a different picture from your article. Corruption in police forces is not new. In the US, only a small minority of all officers are involved in it.

In Mexico, however, police and political corruption are endemic,extending back to the Mexican revolution, circa 1910. It is a cultural difference from the US. The futility of Bush's recent proposal to supply billions of US tax dollars to Mexico to reform the corruption bribery culture does not need further comment.

To stop the impact of this situation on the US the border must be closed. After that is accomplished we (US citizens, including Hispanics) can define a rational system to deal with the illegals already here.

Until the Border is closed, this problem will continue to get worse, by the thousands, every month.

Public comment by many at this time makes clear that a large majority of our citizens have had enough of the present situation.

The truth is we need to go after EMPLOYERS!
The only people getting rich with this cheap labor pool are employers of illegals.

Until then we can do anything and people will still come to work.

Multipronged approach -- border protection and more agents and let's go after their source of income -- employers!

Oakland, CA
U.S.A is a free, independent nation like Canada and Mexico.
U.S.A. has the perfect, legit right to control it own borders. Build the fence.

Tucson, AZ
On crime at the border would you consider doing a program that focuses on the border with Canada?

Troy McFarlin
Los Angeles, CA

This segment of Crimes at the Border was really hard to watch. I worked with Michael Gilliland for 6 years as a guardsman for the Air National Guard. I could not believe he did this. I looked up to him and he taught me everything to know about customs procedures and border protection. I was very disappointed in him. I pray that he learns from this.

Bellingham, WA
Biased as usual - why don't you tell the real hard story - the story of the horrendous cost to taxpayers ($349 billion last year) - more than 9 million citizens lost their jobs to cheap labor - no more donations to taxpayer-funded biased station!

Samantha Arrowood
Spartanburg, SC


Seattle, WA

If we want to go to facts, why don't we discuss the fact that everyone in this country is illegal, unless you are Native American. People from Mexico always get the bad wrap when it comes to illegal immigration. Yet the people from other foreign countries are never targeted when this issue comes up. The majority of the people from Latin America come here to to chase the same dreams any American citizen chases.That is, to work their behinds off to make an honest living and to provide for their families. They come here to do the jobs that no "white person" is going to do.

The only way to solve the problem is to allow a pathway to citizenship for the people that are already here and a guest worker program for people that are living in their countries.

And on an ending note--Who do you think is building that 854-mile wall???

Indianapolis, Indiana

I appreciated your story. However, I think more emphasis could have been placed on the reasons for which the Mexican people have been forced to leave their homes to come to the United States.

From a historical point of view, the Mexican population has been on the attack on both sides --by its own government and by the United States. The corruption of the Mexican government does not need to be addressed here as it is generally well-known to many. As for the exploitation of the Mexican people by the U.S., it began with the taking of their land (and thus resources) and has continued until recently with international agreements, such as NAFTA.

While many opponents of undocumented immigration reject NAFTA, one may reject it for different reasons that seemingly have a greater impact on Mexican immigration. For example, through NAFTA, large agricultural producers in the U.S. that have been subsidized by the government have been able to compete unfairly with poor, rural farmers in Mexico. Consequently, these Mexican farmers have been unable to maintain a livelihood, and they have been forced to move into the cities. Often, these cities are racked with poverty and crime; meanwhile, the Mexican government has been unable to deter crime and has continued to show to be involved in it. Consequently, the Mexican people see little choice but to leave their families and friends to come to the U.S., an unknown place that is frequently anything but welcoming to them.

I strongly oppose the idea that immigrants should become scapegoats at a time of an economic crisis. If anything, there should be more tolerance. Although usually I do not like to respond to blogs like this one, I could not resist here. I wanted to address an angle that, I believe, could have been given more weight.

In all, however, I appreciated your story and look forward to other work in the future.

SF Bay Area, Calif.
Our corrupted state and federal elected officials and their bureaucrats are to blame for this mess. Enforce our current immigration laws on employers with jail and heavy fines. This is about employer greed who want cheap labor and open borders. As for drugs, build the border fence making it difficult to traffic drugs, as well as, people and to stem the selling of guns to Mexico that continues the violence. If we wanted to, much of this problem could be solved. Mexico is a predatory country which has a lot of resources, is corrupt, and refuses to take care of their poor so they come to the U.S. Mexico has some of the richest people in the world and they pay few taxes. This is a disgusting situation for Americans whose tax dollars are being spent on foreign nationals instead of our own citizens.

lehi, utah
If we let the Mexicans in legally it will benefit both the U.S. and Mexican economy. If there are more people willing to do labor jobs, then there will be more competition for high education jobs, and the general educational level will increase, and with more education, we can make some incredible scientific, medical, (etc.) advances.

william johnson
san diego, ca

Why can't we put the blame where it belongs -- square on the shoulders of the most corrupt regime in the Western Hemisphere, the MEXICAN GOVERNMENT?! Why does the US get the blame for this inept institution, which sits on a pool of natural resources and lets its' people starve? They bear 95% of the responsibility. Regarding picking on the white guy, we are seeing that the common denominator now is that the corrupt officials have familial connections to Mexico, and in particular, to places like Tijuana. The most recent CBP Officer to be caught had many family members in Mexico, and was caught when several officers at the OTAY MESA Port of Entry informed management about his allowing people through.

Chicago, IL

The answer is to punish the employer and not the employee. If there were no jobs there would be no illegal aliens. And I would also go after the student visa violators!

Santa Ana, CA

CASE 1: You're born 100 miles north of "the wall." RESULT 1: Work is available to you.

CASE 2: You're born 100 miles south of "the wall."
RESULT 2: Work is not available to you.

This is blatant discrimination.

Americans: let's stop feeling privileged and start caring about our fellow human beings. We do have a problem, and that problem is that our neighbors feel so hopeless in the land in which they were born that they turn to "illegal" immigration and employment to be able to survive. As others here have said, we need to start attacking the core problems here, not just the side effects. And the core problems arise SOUTH of the border. Debilitated economies, physical insecurities, political corruptions, etc., are some of the things that our neighbors suffer. Can't we, the American people, being the most successful and prosperous people the world over, begin to help our neighbors to overcome their current decrepit state?

Oh yeah! I really wish Mexicans and other illegal immigrants would get the heck out of here, so then the American people would have to wash dishes, baby sit, clean houses, etc. Maybe then they would appreciate the hard work these immigrants do....Come on people, what would you really do if suddenly all the immigrants dissapear? I assure you it would be chaos. Nothing would get done! Well, good luck with that!

I really enjoyed your report I appreciate you reaffirming what has been obvious to me for some time, that a wall is not going to stop people. The concept is ridiculous. When people must live like some do in Latin American countries, due very much in part to US foreign policies present and past, then they will go to great lengths to improve their own lives and those of their families. (And there are unforseen probelms: The creation of the wall has created major problems with the migration of endangered jaguars.)
People say that migrants should come here legally, but our system for allowing people to do so is so ridiculous, it's really not an option for most who want to come here. I don't necessarily think that openning up our borders completely is the right way to go, but we're not going to keep people out either. So what is the answer? I can't for the life of me figure it out.

Jorge Rodriguez
Mission Viejo, CA

For 3 years in jail, making an average of $40 thousand a night until getting caught, it's worth the risk. Laws must get a lot tougher for "polleros" and corrupted border officials. Imagine the monster of a society evolving south of the border, where drug dealers and "polleros" are the rich and powerful?

I was dissapointed to only hear about the corruption within the agency. I happen to know that the job is a very thankless one. The border crossers don't care if you're there or not and because you catch them and they just try again later it makes the job very difficult. So why not focus on what they do their best to do to try to stop/catch these criminals?

Indio, CA
Ship them all back to Mexico. Build the fence, it will slow them down...
Remember Homeland Security Begins @ Home

j kay
tucson, arizona

One very positive, that I'm sure wasn't intended, consequence of this very one-sided, open border, anti-fence Frontline (PBS) special is that it gives the anti-illegal immigration groups more ammunition to begin calling for changes to stop the corruption going on by those federal officers guarding the US-Mexico border. So, for that reason ONLY, I say thank you Frontline for a job well done.

Ernest Post
Roanoke, VA

What percentage of the corrupt border patrol is Hispanic? Funny how Frontline didn't mention this but focused on the white guy.

Red Wheitenbleu
Richmond, CA

We designate federal monies to build miles and miles of wall; yet our Northern border is wide open and vulnerable. We increase funding for thousands more border patrol agents, only to now find corruption from within these ranks. We are passing local resolutions in Arizona and Oklahoma that are clearly designed to intimidate, round up and send illegals packing, yet Arizona just last month adopted a 'temporary worker program' allowing thousands of seasonal workers from Mexico to pick its crops before they rot.

We shout "what part of illegal don't you understand?," yet ALL of us in the past (and presently) have consumed and purchased wine [grapes], dairy products, canned goods, fruits and veggies that, in all likelihood, were processed, manufactured or harvested with 'illegal' hands. Sure, you weren't directly responsible for hiring these illegal hands. OK. Fine. Yet you bought and consumed these products nonetheless that indirectly contributed to our present dilemma.

We want an end to business practices that rely on illegal immigrant labor, yet I have not seen a stampede rush by American citizens to COMPETE for and take back these coveted low-skilled jobs unfairly stolen by 'foreign invaders.'

I have seen ICE conduct workplace raids; but I have yet to see ICE storm a college campus in order to apprehend the thousands of upper middle-class foreign students who yearly overstay their visas (I have personally met many of these students myself, and none were from Mexico). Or how about ICE storming the thousands of Asian massage parlors all across America, where undocumented female sexual 'slaves' are many times held indefinitely by profit-seeking smugglers.

Mostly, though, I see alongside this hypocrisy a rising tide of ethnic intolerance that is building up to dangerous levels all across our nation; and some--not all, but some supposed-liberals have become quick to join in.

FINAL THOUGHT: When our fences are finally up and completed, and when we've successfully kicked out the last illegal immigrant, we may find that what remains within our national 'gated community' is a cohort of citizens who may certainly be legal, but who at the same time (through our divisive enforcement-and-punish immigration policies) have become irrationally suspicious, narrow-minded, and intolerant of each other. Just look at Jim Gilchrist and the Minutemen Movement. Gilchrist has himself said last week that his national chapters are plagued with constant infighting and that his organization can very likely disband within the year. Years earlier Glenn Spencer, Jim Gilchrist and Chris Simcox (all on the same team) has a similar falling out, which led to a major parting of ways for hundreds of members.

Americans, be careful what you ask for....


An issue that raises the emotions of everyone. I am amused at the fear of terrorists, a successful linkage of blowhards like Lou Dobbs and Fox News. Can it be, that this will require a nuanced approach instead of the winner take all attitude of my cowboy countrymen?

It is a race issue, and that always is emotional. We, the US, need to deal with the problem unemotionally, and compassionately, live up to our moral heritage.

Vicky Solterbeck
Ontario, Oregon

Immigration is a complex problem for both Mexico and the U.S. If Mexican citizens feel that they have to seek a better life in the U.S. and come sneaking across the border to do it, would not the Mexican government feel compelled to do something to keep their citizens? "Rafael," the smuggler ended his interview with a globally heart-wrenching problem: "Unless you can stop poverty or hunger, it(human smuggling) will never stop". Why is the Mexican government not willing to provide some kind of federal aid to their people who live on the border? Immigration is causing a large group of people who cannot openly claim to be from Mexico(causing shame and low-self-esteem) and yet while hiding and working in America they cannot claim to be Americans.

Thank you for this timely and provoking discussion.

Great story!

Doug Lawrence
San Marcos, CA

PBS Frontline still represents the best video investigation reporting...period. And usually, even when an obvious bias is shown by the producers I still believe I've received a balanced view of the issue. But the way this segment of "WORLD" ended left a bad taste in my mouth. I was expecting the second half hour when the program seemed to just "give up." The viewers were told (according to whose verifiable statistics?) that 95% of the people who want to cross are able to cross within two-three attempts. The story abruptly changed from one of a problem within our own law enforcement to one which underscored the futility of even trying to secure the border.

I wonder what Europe or the rest of the world would look like today if we had had weaker leaders who in 1940-43 refused to continue shipments to England because of the great number of losses due to U-boats. The answer was not capitulation, but the build up of more spotter aircraft, destroyers and other technologies. So, I was hoping to be left with a feeling that in terms of "winning" the illegal emigration issue it was 1944 and not 1940. Instead, I'm just left feeling like we are incompetent fools who are tricked every night by rock-throwing distractors. I really expected more from Frontline and Mr. Bergman.

Edgar Martinez
San Diego, CA

I can't believe this Frontline report. Usually they get it right, but this report has no logical thinking. The reporter makes the claim that a border fence is worse than a corrupt border official. What a skewed way of thinking. Frontline has an obvious agenda that illegal aliens should come in an reap the benefits of our country. The fact that the smugglers prices are going up means that less illegal aliens will be able to pay and smuggle in. I hope the smugglers price reaches $10,000. That would mean that only the few that can pay that will try to get in.

Dan C
Youngstown, Ohio

Wouldn't it be easier to treat the problem instead of just the symptom? The walls and the border patrol agents are just the symptoms. The problem is that after crossing illegally, the immigrants are being employed by someone illegally. Spend the money on finding and fining these businesses and individuals, and the incentive for the illegal crossings will stop. It would be easier and cheaper to enforce laws that are already on the books, instead of building a wall that isn't working anyway.

Yes, they are poor. Yes, they are desperate. But being poor and desperate doesn't give anyone the right to break the law. They assumedly want to become legal US citizens? What kind of citizens do we want here whose first thing they do to come here is break the law? And they feel they deserve amnesty after committing a crime? We have enough entitlees in this country already.

Carl Malischke
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Just a few thoughts. First, giving people visas to come and work would put smugglers out of work and put the fees in my pocket instead of theirs. It would also give us access to the identity and whereabouts of folks coming here at least at their arrival point. It would also give employers a legal way to hire the workers they seem to need. Example: Wisconsin's tourism industry is suffering because the resorts can't get visas to hire kids from around the world to work during the summer.

Second, some would like to put corrupt border guards in prison for 20 years and then deport them to Mexico. I suggest we skip the 20 years, which I would have to pay for, and just deport them right away, but only on one condition, that we also immediately deport all the business owners in this country who have undocumented workers in their workplaces. That way we shut down the job sites which will certainly lead to a better US economic base since there will be lots of new business and employment opportunities for all of us who belong here.

Third, I suggest that we tax every US citizen who vacations or owns a home in Mexico or other 3rd world country as a penalty for taking money out of our economy. The tax would be the average price of a coyote, say about $3000 for every trip across our southern border. This way we would collect money from people going south. This coupled with my first idea would allow us to collect money from those going north as well. All this revenue could pay for the wall and the border security expenses.

Finally, I suggest we start building a similar wall across out northern border. Hopefully, we'll finish it before the terrorists realize we have a northern border. I'm sure there are other creative ideas out there.

Juan Soldado
Aspen, CO

Just want to thank all the hard working people in law enforcement who are doing their part to stop corruption. Because we can build a thousand fences and hire a million Border Agent to no avail when corruption exists.

John Corcelli
Toronto, Canada

As a Canadian on the other side of the border, I couldn't help but think of the fence as keeping people "in" rather than "out" similar to the Berlin Wall. But let's not go there. My question is: how do the smugglers know which gate to enter without being inspected?

mike adams
port huron, mi

Why not use an infrared instrument of some sort to detect heat coming from unusual area of the vehicle before they reach the border guards!

Glenn Spencer
Hereford, AZ

As head of a non-profit corporation, American Border Patrol, I fly the border every two months to document the progress in building the border fence. The American People must understand that the government is not telling the truth about the border. They claim having completed more than 300 mies of fence when the true number is less than 100 miles, and little of that of the type of double fence the law called for. Frontline failed to report these facts and failed to explore the link between the fact that more than 60% of new Border Patrol hires are Hispanic and all of the recent cases reported by the accompanying NY Times report had Hispanic surnames.

FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
he corrupted U.S. border guard, Michael Gilliland -- the subject of the FBI's sting operation -- was a former marine, a 16-year veteran and an Anglo. The smugglers, you may recall from our story, referred to him as "El Guero," the white guy or "the blond."

Leon Donahue
Tacoma, WA

As a citizen of the U.S. who supports securing our borders in order to either stop or at least reduce illegal immigration, drug runners and possible terrorists crossing into the U.S., I was a little put out with the fact that Crimes at the Border #704 kept talking about bad/crooked border patrol agents and never mentioned the thousands who are doing a good job protecting our borders. You could have mentioned two loyal, BP Agents Ramos and Compean who are spending 11 and 12 years in prison for doing their jobs. You could have mentioned that they were sent to prison by a convicted Mexican drug dealer and and out of control federal prosecutor who withheld information from the jury.

Next time, please tell the whole story, not just the bad stuff.

Santa Monica, California
There must never be another amnesty of any kind which encourages the rest of the world to run [across] the USA borders. All security personnel should be given lie detector tests every year to keep their jobs. Besides having a fence that will stop vehicles and people from running the USA borders, employers must be severely punished for hiring illegals--only then will the invasion stop--when there is nothing to gain by running the USA borders!

Sek N. Wisdom
Detroit, Michigan

In all it's years the U.S.A. has not learned the lessons of people, land, and life. As long as people are willing to hire folk regardless of their legal status in this country, people will come. They will use "weak" lines about "family" to hide indifference to someone else's rules and laws. The same principle applies to "drugs" and "poverty". We are the only country in history to successfully wage multiple "unwinnable" wars and have them federally funded.

john adams
los angeles, CA

Com'on Frontline, please don't do another story like this without telling the whole story. The people will stop this unlawful entry even it the goverment can't.Please don't team up with the New York Times again, and present a half-ass story to the American People. The borders will be secured!

Andre Radnoti
Los Angeles, CA

The opening of the segment dealing with the border was that a corrupt border guard was a major national security threat in that it would cause a breach that could lead to devastating results. At the end the claim was securing the border with a barrier was futile in that illegals would still get across. How is a corrupt border guard worse than an unsecured border?

Open borders are worse than the occasional corrupt border guard as far as magnitude in illegal crossings and with it potential security threats. I understand PBS. They are consumed with the global village mindset to the point where their logic has been warped by ideology. Next time give a broader perspective on the barrier rather than one individual's view from a university professor who himself is mired in politically correct global village ideology.

I was expecting the twist somewhere in the segment and it was delivered. The message from PBS is that a border barrier is futile and therefore all those concerned with border security are infected with Lou Dobbs Disorder and are incapable of making rational decisions. PBS is part of the problem with getting the border secured.

FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
We welcome everyone's comments. But we reserve the right to edit foul and abusive language, as we have with this post. We know immigration issues make some people's blood boil, but let's keep it civil.

Woodbury, Minnesota
I love Frontline, I watch it all the time. The reporters do a very good job of asking hard questions, the problem I have with this program and reporters is just that. Reporters and journalists, if they are good, do a great job of presenting solid facts and information and asking hard hitting, relevant questions but rarely offer any answers. Is that what journalists are trained to do? To stay objective? What is the solution to this problem?

tom walter
el cajon, california

There is no way the border patrol is going to stop all the illegals from coming to the US; if they do, then who is going to do my lawn?

Joseph Hernandez
San Antonio, Tx

The fence is just a tool for better control of smuggling but not a fix. However, the people who oppose the fence are the same ones opposing enforcement of laws against employers, banning benefits like medicaid, public housing, drivers licenses and any other incentive for coming into the U.S. When the Mayor of Los Angeles asks the Feds to stop raiding factories then one can see how it is our elected officials' lack of political courage or trying to serve two masters that undermines any enforcement. NO JOB, NO BENEFITS, NO REASON TO COME. People are leaving Arizona, people are leaving West Virginia, attrition works.

We need to give the corrupt border guards a lot stiffer sentences. Let's start with 20 yrs. in prison for first offense of treason. When they finish the 20 yrs. then we deport them to Mexico.

Lapeer, Michigan
First let me say that your story is not telling the whole truth, and if you're going to tell a story please include all the southern border states and don't be afraid to tell the whole story about what the illegal aliens are doing to this country in Arizona. Second I think you are too far to the left on 99% of your reports. Or are you afraid to tell the truth to the American citizens?

Naomi Durant
Lindsborg, Kansas

Thank you for this view of what is happening at the border. This is what PBS is about - enlightenment on current and critical issues of our time.

Damn, this makes me furious!!! They need to shut down this freakin' border permanently. If anyone needs to get in and out of Mexico then they need to fly. To think our own citizens are selling out our country just PISSES ME OFF!! These so called patriots need to serve the rest of their life in prison for all the aggravation that they have put upon Americans! All for the love of the dollar. What a damn shame!

Joliet, Illinois
This activity MUST be stopped. WHY is our government not addressing this aggressively? It continues while the administration and Congress "chat" about what to do. I think any of us watching could come up with any number of solutions, which leaves us asking, "Do they really want to fix this problem?"


Human smuggling is a secret everybody knows. I'd like to challenge Mr. Bergman to explore the Guatemalan/Mexico border and witness the human rights abuse from the Mexican authorities against Central American and South American immigrants. Witness first hand how the Mexican border patrol rob, blackmail, and murder immigrants at the Guatemala/Mexico border.

Progressive Liberal
Los Angeles, California

It's ironic and hypocritical when Americans, correction, United States citizens, are up in arms when "undocumented" workers take the jobs reserved for U.S. citizens and I don't mean manual labor jobs, when it's our own government who does nothing to seal the borders, or enforce immigration laws already in the books. President Bush says it's impossible to deport more than 11 million illegals, but go back to 1996 when the Republicans were the majority, they did nothing. And now, Bush has authorized "illegals" to receive a tax compensation. You know, the $600? So how would we resolve this? How can we stop immigrants and not just from Mexico, Frontline, from coming in? Do what conservative speaker's recommend. Close Disneyland down and people will go home. In other words, if the ICE agents were to enforce laws to prevent corporations hiring illegals in the first place, what incentive will the illegals have to come across? None.

Also, as liberal talk show host Mike Malloy wonders, why all the big hoopla over undocumented workers, when it was the Bush Crime Family and the criminal Bill Clinton who created NAFTA and CAFTA, and destroyed the economic backbone in both Mexico and Central America. Get rid of the two trade organizations, enforce laws who prosecute corporations, and you'll have a border free of illegals coming in. It's that simple and it's cheaper than deporting more than 30 million illegals.

barbara overley
nipomo,ca 93444

Please let's let all the Mexicans come into this country without any protests. The wall is a joke. These people only want to live a better life.