Smuggler's tunnel in Nogales featured on 'Border Wars' reality show


by Sybil Hoffman

Posted on September 16, 2011 at 10:45 PM

Updated Monday, Sep 19 at 11:10 AM

NOGALES, Ariz. - Whether it’s confiscating contraband or discovering drugs, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers are right in the middle of it all. 3TV went behind the scenes in Nogales as National Geographic crews taped its hit reality show "Border Wars."

Nobody captures cartel action like "Border Wars." This is the third time the crew has filmed on Arizona’s border. Nick Stein, series producer, told us, "We live and embed with these guys like no one ever has before and the result is we film things that have truly never been captured on film before."

Being embedded means his crews are not only putting themselves in danger, their every move is documented. Stein says "As you can see behind me, this is Nogales Sonora, it's right up close and they've got the high ground, right now there are scouts and there are people watching us, there is no question about it."

In the next show, agents discover an underground tunnel commonly created by the cartels to smuggle in drugs. A ‘Border War’s photographer didn’t hesitate going underground. He not only captured the cramped quarters, you see what sent this Border Patrol Agent scrambling for safety.

“You know what. I hear voices, let's get the (expletive) out of here." According to Stein, “They literally have to back up to get away because they're in about as vulnerable of a position as you can be, stuck in a tiny hole, right on the Mexican side of the border."

The upcoming episode also reveals the desperate measures migrants make to cross the border. They even admit on camera plans to do it again.

"The voice of the other side of the border is coming across more and more and more, we give it more and more screen time," Stein said.

But what’s not getting screen time is anything that jeopardizes National Security. Brian Levin is a Chief CBP Officer.

"There is some concern about the bad guys seeing what we're doing," he said. "But we're not giving away our secrets here. Here at the ports of entry we have to think about the trade secrets act, we have to think about privacy acts, we have to think about the computer screens, we have to think about our officer safety."

Officer safety comes first for National Geographic because they probably more than most, understand the dangers associated with cracking down on drug cartels. Stein says, "We are very sensitive to identifying people, some of them live in the community, they certainly live right near the border, there is no fooling around down here, this is the real deal, this is dangerous."

On Sunday, Sept. 18, you can watch "Border Wars: Smuggler’s Tunnel" featuring Nogales at 10 p.m. on the National Geographic Channel.