We filmed the last of them as they picked up a higher trail around our position. I was very concerned that they would circle back behind us. I doubt they knew that there were only three of us. They continued on North.
As we came out of the bush the next morning we discovered that same night, not far from us, an infiltrator been shot and badly beaten. Left in the bush to die, I have always wondered if he had been one of the men we had filmed.
The last words of advice that Border Patrol had given us before we entered the Buenos Aires Animal Preserve was: “If you see guys with uniforms and automatic weapons, run the fuck away, because they aren’t ours.”
Those agents were dead right.
As I drove back to California, I got a phone call from the acting Border Patrol Tucson Sector chief asking me if I could give them a copy of the footage that we shot. He thought that it might save lives of new agents if they used it in the academy. I said absolutely. In fact we had just dropped a DVD of raw footage off at the BP sector station.
DHS and the Border Patrol Public Information Office leadership did not want us going into that dead zone. Rank and file agents went under the radar and sent the word out on the wire to keep an eye out for us anyway. I will always be grateful. That wasn’t the first time I saw field agents bucking Washington. While these heroic men and women face a superiorly armed enemy force from the South, they must constantly guard their rear from the bureaucrats and activists in Washington and the media.
A few minutes later I got a phone call from a federal agent on behalf of the Buenos Aires Animal Preserve, informing me that I had broken federal law by filming without the proper permit. I was told that if I ever came back I could be arrested and have my camera equipment confiscated.
That was my first firsthand experience with elements in the Federal government that are more focused on covering up the dangers of the border, than fixing them.
In July of 2005 I started to make BORDER, a film that I had hoped would document an important time in US history. If for no other reason, my wife and I wanted to have the truth on record for our kids. In my wildest dreams I never thought that in October of 2005 I would film foreign troops entering our country at will.
About the same time, on a ranch that we had just left in South Texas, 21 armed soldiers in black battle dress uniforms, the first three wearing night vision goggles, were observed escorting 6 civilians through the bush. That ranch is 69 miles north of the border. Who were these civilians that they afforded such protection? Where are they now?
Five months after that night Texas DPS and Hudspeth Co. Sheriff’s deputies ran into Mexican troops and Humvees on our side of the Rio Grande. The drug laden SUVs tried to escape across the river and get back into Mexico. One made it. One got stuck.
Mexican troops deployed into the dense cover of the riverbank salt cedars and tried to outflank the US law enforcement personnel, as drug cartel members unloaded narcotics from, and then burned the SUV. The Federal officers were ordered out of the area. The agents wanted to stay, but the orders from higher up said no.
A similar situation had happened in Hudspeth Co. in November of 2005. When Sheriff Arvin West reported the confrontation with Mexican Military troops to the US Federal government, he was told that the incident never happened. Instead of arming his deputies with bigger guns, he bought them video cameras. When the next confrontation happened, they filmed the entire event. This time the Federal government responded very quickly. The FBI called and wanted to confiscate every tape. Sheriff West told them to go to hell, he was going to the media.
Fifteen months after we filmed our incursions in Arizona, a unit of Tennessee National Guardsmen were deployed on the same ground. This time when foreign military troops came into the US positions, the US troops were ordered to fall back, observe and report. They did.
The foreign troops probed further and tried to outflank the US troops.
Again the US troops were ordered to fall back, observe and report. They did, and again the opposing force advanced further until Border Patrol air support came on scene and the foreign soldiers retreated back into Mexico.
We are the United States of America. We have the strongest military in the world. These things aren’t supposed to happen, not on American soil, but they do. Often.
Like it or not, this is a war. (Part 1
|| Part 2
|| Part 4