When Jesse first heard that small Mexican fishing boats smuggled 4 million dollars of marijuana into California he almost rededicated his life to become a stoner. Yes, then he realized what was really going on. Small Mexican fishing boats called “pangas” were smuggling migrant workers and marijuana on all night trips into the United States. With over 205 panga crossings last year alone, Baja smugglers no longer rely on just making a run for it across the land border. They’ve taken to the seas.
His Spanish is terrible and most of his friends thought he was venturing recklessly into a war zone. He asked his Mexican buddy Luis if he’d like to come along and translate. They wanted to know where are these Mexican boats coming from, who actually runs the smuggling business and how much money is really being made?
As a former journalist in the Middle East, Jesse learned that you can’t exactly put on a suit and lockdown an office interview with everyone. But by framing this whole thing as a wild ass, surf travel adventure, it could actually be their best shot at understanding the Mexican side of the smuggling business.
Their first stop was in Border Field State Park on the U.S. side of the fence. If it was really true that this militarized land border pushed smugglers off shore, they wanted to see what this militarized border presence actually looked like. They didn’t see anyone.
It’s incredible. For everything you hear in the news about the border, there’s nobody there. What’s to stop a panga from just going out, going 100 miles up to the coast? They figured there would at least be a dude in a jeep or somebody watching.
From private prisons built to hold undocumented workers, to drones and radar systems that were originally built for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans are approaching what experts call the border industrial complex. But seriously, is it necessary to use drones to chase panga boats carrying bundles of weed and migrant workers coming for $10 an hour dishwashing jobs? It seems like a sick joke.
Watch: Baja Smugglers (2013) 25 Minutes