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Fred Siemens, a Missing Person find . . .

During the early 1980s I was one of two second-level Customs supervisors in the inspection force at the port of Brownsville, Texas and on a very special evening I was performing my supervisory duties on the swing shift—4 pm to 12 midnight—at the Gateway Bridge. At some time near the middle of the shift, a pedestrian of a different kind walked in from Mexico and the officer on sidewalk duty referred him to my office.

The pedestrian was an elderly Anglo male, probably in his sixties, wearing slacks and a white shirt, his tie still knotted but hanging loosely. There was blood on his face and his shirt was stained with blood, apparently from a nosebleed. He walked erratically and seemed oblivious of his surroundings. My first thoughts were that he was either drunk or under the influence of drugs, but his answers to my first questions were always the same—I don’t know. My most pertinent question was Do you know where you are? His answer was simply No.

I asked him for his name and he said Fred Siemens. I asked him where he lived and he said San Antonio, and my next question was Are you an attorney? He said Yes and I realized that he was Fred Siemens, a prominent attorney in San Antonio, nationally and internationally known for his work in criminal law. Because of him and an article on him that appeared in one of San Antonio’s local newspapers, I became a devotee of Henry David Thoreau’s writings, specifically Walden or, Life in the Woods and On the Duty of Civil Disobedience. The image on the right is my well-thumbed copy of the work on which Mahatma Ghandi based his passive resistance movements. Click here for an explanation of how, when, where and why I first met Thoreau and his writings.

I suspected that he could be the subject of a missing person alert, and I immediately called the Brownsville Police Department and asked for an officer to come to the Gateway Bridge. Two officers arrived in record time, and I told them that they should contact the San Antonio Police Department and would probably find a missing person lookout on the man. They thanked me and gently escorted the attorney to their vehicle.

Now read about the non-existent grateful appreciation expressed by the Brownsville police for giving them a well-known missing person and the opportunity to shine a bright light on the coordination between local and federal law enforcement in the city of Brownsville. I never heard from the Police Department—I called the Department the next day and the people on duty claimed to have no knowledge of the incident.

However, several days later a lengthy article appeared in the local daily newspaper detailing the fine work done by Brownsville’s police in returning a missing person to his home in San Antonio. The article stated that in the early evening on a certain day Mr. Siemens was found wandering around in the vicinity of the Gateway Bridge, apparently unaware of his surroundings, and an investigation determined that a missing person lookout for him had been made by San Antonio police. Obviously there were some really ambitious officers on Brownsville’s police force!

I should have known what was going to happen, because the two officers that took custody of the missing person neglected to ask for my name or for my position in the Customs hierarchy. If I gave that any thought at the time, it would probably have been that they would return for the specifics of the interdiction, and also to tender the thanks of the local department to the Customs officers on duty that evening, specifically to the inspector on pedestrian traffic duty and to the supervisory officer on the shift, the person that recognized the missing person and initiated the investigation. I mean, like hey, everybody likes to shine!

So I can only offer kudos to the local police for their fine work in solving a missing person lookout and returning a brilliant and nationally-known criminal law attorney to his home and to his loved ones. Good work, guys!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
 

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Inside Edition interview . . .

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!

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2010 in actor and acting, bridge, television

 

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