A camera crew from Inside Edition appeared at the Customhouse at the Gateway Bridge in Brownsville, Texas one bright spring day in 1981 and requested permission from the port director to film from the bridge for a segment on that popular show. Because nobody else wanted to do it, I was asked—ordered, actually—to accompany the crew as they filmed, and provide information as requested by the crew, but to stay within the boundaries established by the Service.
There were two men, the reporter and the camera man. We went to the middle of the bridge and the camera panned 360 degrees, covering Matamoros on the Mexican side and downtown Brownsville on the US side, with closeups of vehicle and pedestrian traffic on the bridge, both outbound and inbound. Several minutes of that and the camera was focused to closeup on me, and a series of questions was asked by the reporter. I answered them as best I could—I don’t recollect having to say I don’t know to any of the questions. I believe the reporter had done his homework on Customs and Immigration operations, and most of his questions dealt with my opinions on the effectiveness of our enforcement operations and our control of illegal immigration. The image above is the Gateway Bridge in the early part of the 20th century—no, I’m don’t go back that far—I just thought it might be interesting to show how it was then. The image below shows Brownsville’s seaport—the waterway stretches inland to Brownsville from the Gulf of Mexico—it’s part of the 3,000 mile Intercoastal Waterway along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
I gave the authorized percentages, items such as “We probably intercept no more than ten percent of the narcotics entering the US,” and referred the reporter to the Immigration supervisor for immigration statistics. The interview was rather brief, considering how far the crew had traveled—all the way from New York to the tip of Texas. I remember that I was asked my opinion on illegal immigration—we were allowed to use the term illegal aliens in those days. In fact, many in law enforcement still used the term wetback, mindful of the audience, of course, because political correctness was becoming more and more the norm.
I discussed the mortality rate of children born in Mexico—the statistics in that era—the early eighties—showed that for every ten babies born in Mexico only six reached the age of five years—the other four died before that age, a mortality rate of forty percent. The opinion that I voiced to the reporter was that I placed no blame on families wanting to come to the United States. I also told the reporter that I was familiar with the Mexican economy, both la frontera—the border—and the interior of the country, and if for some reason I were banished to Mexico I would be back in the US the same day by going over, under, around or through any barrier erected by law enforcement, just as illegals have always done, are doing today and probably always will—and I would repeat that entry as many times as necessary, just as they are doing today. The records show that individuals have been deported fourteen times and more—deportation is no more than a speed bump in the road. It simply slows an illegal immigrant down for a day or so.
I may as well voice my opinion on illegal immigration here and now—not that it will be noticed. Stop the hiring of illegal immigrants and they will stay in Mexico. They can’t find work there, and it’s useless—completely unproductive—to brave the Border Patrol to enter the US in order to not find work here either.
The reporter on the Inside Edition team dutifully took my name and mailing address and told me that a personal copy of the audited tape would be mailed to me and I would be informed of the date it would be aired. And I’ll bet that you, the reader, can guess the rest of that story.
You’re right—I never heard from anyone connected with Inside Edition. I have long suspected that if a copy were mailed, it went to the official address of the bridge and was intercepted by the port director, but of course I could be wrong, and I can’t ask him about it—he is no longer on active duty with Customs. In fact he is no longer on active duty anywhere, unless he has a position UP THERE, or DOWN THERE, as the case may be. He died several years later while on a Customs assignment in Puerto Rico—or maybe it was Guam—I’m unsure.
I am sure that at sometime after I left Brownsville the port director was charged with several deviations from acceptable procedures, including bringing in alcoholic beverages without having federal and state duties and tax collected and for having items imported and the proper declarations not being made—I believe he dodged a bullet on the charges, very similar to the investigations of improper actions of numerous members of our House of Representatives and the Senate, and similar to the completely inadequate resolutions thereof.
I am sure of the deviations because I have a copy of the article that appeared in the Brownsville paper.
Such a shame about my personal copy of that tape—my performance may have been good enough to qualify me for a future in films!
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!