In 1981 we took truck #2 to California to shoot video for the ABC News 20/20 special “Border Crossing”.
We started at San Ysidro and followed the trail of illegal’s working our way north to Los Angeles.
We spent some time in and around San Diego and in both San Diego and LA shot video of sanctuary houses where the illegals were hidden and followed them to the corners where they congregated each morning to find work.
In a “lazy” and dollar rich United States, finding work was not really much of a problem. The area farmers, ranchers, day work landscapers and pretty much anyone else would simply drive to one of the appropriate intersections, which changed every few days to pretend to keep ahead of the Border Patrol.
Always in pick up trucks those looking for laborers would pull up to the corner, hold their hand up in the air through the drivers window with a number of fingers indicating how many men they needed.
Through some seniority system they had worked out that number of men would jump in the back of the pick up and off they’d go. The whole transaction generally taking less than a minute. That evening they’d be returned to the same corner. With permission we followed one such group to a farm where they met up with other illegals that lived on the farm. What “lived” means is that they worked the same farm every day and had found enough material to build some kind of casa (house or tent or in the trees near the fields they worked) for them to live and sleep in. Sometimes a casa had several male workers living together, sometimes it was, tragically, a family, often with very small children.
One casa had a man his wife and a young daughter. The back story was that the man usually lived with other workers but had built this casa so that his wife and young daughter could sneak across from Mexico to join him for just a few weeks. She was pregnant with their second child and since she had made it to the US in time for the birth there were a number of benefits, not the least of which is that our medical system would deliver and care for her and the child for free until she felt it was time for her and the children to return to Mexico
We spent a night at a Border Patrol check point on the 105 freeway a few miles north of the Point of Entry at San Ysidro. Tijuana is just across that border.
Another night we set the truck up near a popular border crossing. We were on a hill looking across a shallow valley at the border fence. This crossing area is known as the Soccer Field. Each afternoon the Mexicans started to gather in an empty field across the way. It was a rather festive atmosphere complete with a cart selling food and drinks.
As the sun starts to set a few of the brave ones start crossing over and under the fence. By night fall it was a flood that went on for several hours.
I put a rented star light lens on the camera and we not only got video of what was literally a solid stream of humanity swarming into the United States but we got video of one illegal stabbing another and taking his possessions.
Initially we were shooting in the dark on battery and were being quiet so as not to scare them off. After a few illegals got way too close our Border Patrol liaison said we should at least let them know we were there before something bad happened. I started our generator which, of course, produced a little noise and I set up a stand with a small 500 watt lamp on it and pointed the light high enough that it didn’t hurt our video, and in fact made a very nice picture of nearby terrain on the star light lens video. The light certainly made our location very clear and, just in case, I turned on the running lights on the truck.
The illegals streamed around us on either side of the truck just out of our sight, but not that of the star light lens. Honestly, the illegals didn’t want to run into us and, believe me, we didn’t want to run into them.