A&E goes behind the lines of the U.S. drug war in “Bordertown: Laredo”

"Sgt. Sifuentes" (left) leads a group of Laredo, Texas, narcotics officers in A&E's new series, "Bordertown: Laredo."

By Stacey Harrison


I’ve interviewed plenty of people who use stage names, but until I spoke with “Sgt. Sifuentes” of the Laredo (Texas) Police Department’s Narcotics Unit, I’d never talked with anyone who did so for protection.

That’s the reality facing Sifuentes and his crew who are on the front lines of America’s battle against illegal drugs. Sitting directly on the U.S.-Mexico border, Laredo is a hotbed of marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine trafficking, and it’s a Herculean task for the officers of Bordertown: Laredo to keep up. The series, which follows its subjects around for more than a year, details their exploits as they work — often undercover — to track down smugglers and keep the illegal drugs from hitting the streets. It premieres at 10pm Thursday on A&E.

I spoke with Sifuentes about his dangerous job, why having a sense of humor is essential, and why he doesn’t care for the term “drug war”:

Were you or any of your officers hesitant at all about having the cameras follow you around?

Sgt. Sifuentes: Yes. … I have a bunch of guys who do nothing but undercover work. A lot of the public does not know who they are, they don’t know where they work. That was hard at first, but you know the crew did such a good job in the sense that they just went with us. They just followed us. They just filmed what we did, they didn’t ask us to do anything in particular. You know, “You’re leaving the office? You’re going out on something? OK, we’re going to follow you.” As far as safety, yeah, it’s in the back of all of our minds right now. The show’s going to come out and a lot of us are going to be seen on there. Like I say, we live right on the border. Laredo is right on the border, we’re not like McAllen or some other cities that are 10 miles away, we’re right on the border.

How do you think the show does portraying your line of work?

SS: I’ve seen two of the 10 [episodes]. … What I saw was completely accurate. I watch reality shows all of the time also, and you’re always wondering is this true, did it really happen that way? But I can honestly say on our show that we never made up any kind of scenario or anything. I think maybe that’s why it took them so long to film it because obviously we’re not taking down those big loads every day. They’re few and far between sometimes, but they were patient and, like I said, they didn’t ask us to do anything.

Has the drug war violence seen in Mexico permeated into the U.S.?

SS: A lot of people are saying that the violence in Mexico doesn’t spill over into the United States. But if you think about it, it does. A lot of the murders we have are because of drug loads that are lost or people who have not paid up, so they send people over here to take care of that. Drugs spawn so much crime. Then you start getting into the element of the underworld, organized crime. If you’re asking me if there’s a spillover, of course there is.

I was surprised by the amount of humor on the show. Not that you take your jobs lightly, of course, but is that kind of a release valve for you, to joke around with your fellow officers?

SS: It’s pretty tense as we build up to a case and we know we’re going to take it down. Right at that moment when it’s done and you realize everybody’s safe and everything’s done, the humor comes out. To be honest with you, I think that’s the only way we can stay level-headed or else we’d be tense all the time. It would be way too much stress, I think, if you didn’t let some of it go.

How has life been since the camera crews left?

SS: We’ve had really big seizures since they left. But it doesn’t stop. The problem dealing with the Mexican drug trade is obviously they have their harvest season when they actually cultivate the marijuana, and cut it and package it and send it over here, and then they replant the field. So there are months that go in between when you don’t have a lot of marijuana coming across because it’s growing. Once they cultivate it at all these different marijuana farms and they start sending it across, then you have an influx and you start having a lot of work. In between that you have the cocaine, which is coming from South America to Mexico. But the thing we’re seeing now in Laredo, and we’re getting big seizures of, which we never had before, is methamphetamine. They’re using Laredo now as one of the routes for that.

Is there one drug that’s more prevalent than the others?

SS: I think marijuana is going to be the top, always. Now methamphetamine is catching up to the cocaine, but they’re pretty much getting to be the same.

Have you heard about a possible second season?

SS: I’ve been told if it goes well with the ratings that they’ll be back down to do a second season. We’re fine with it. Basically, we’re just showing the rest of the country what goes on. Obviously it’s not just coming through Laredo. It’s coming through El Paso, Nogales, Brownsville, all these other cities, but Laredo is a big hot spot for drugs. We’re just showing people how does it get to their communities, it comes through here. We’re doing our best to try to stop it, but it’s pretty overwhelming.

What doesn’t the general member of the public know about what’s really going on with the drug war?

SS: I don’t call it a drug war, I know everybody does. They want to say it’s a drug war, but if it was a war, I think the U.S. would have already stopped it. OK? If they wanted to stop it I think they would put more resources into it and let’s call it an all-out war and get it over with. “You’re not going to be bringing drugs into this country.” I understand that the U.S. populace has the most drug users in the world. We want it, they can grow it, so they’re going to send it to us. They make a lot of money off it. If they want to shut down the border, I think they could do a lot better job. But for now [the drug cartels] have the muscle. … We also have a big presence of federal officers down here, but it’s just so overwhelming that there’s no way to stop the bulk of it. We’re stopping what we can.

Is there one thing more than anything else you want viewers to come away knowing?

SS: What I was trying to portray to the people of this country, and I think my guys also want this, everybody in every community in this country knows there are drugs in the United States. People can get it regularly, they can get it whenever they want, but what are the officers down on the border doing to help us? Well, this show will show them that we’re out there daily and we’re doing investigations and we’re taking people down and we’re trying to get to the top of these chains. Like they say, cut the head off the snake, because that’s the only way we’re going to slow it down. Stop it? No. But we can try to slow it down. We’re trying to show the people that we’re not just sitting around down here writing tickets. We’re actually working the drug trade, and we’re doing the best we can.

4 Comments

  1. I love this show,its’ the real stuff and scary but so proud of the work that you accomplish each day to put the bad ones in jail, instead of hurting our teen kids.

  2. Damn, I love this show. These guys not only speak proper English and act like bad!@# cops, which is much better than cops on 48hrs tv show. Waiting for the 2nd season…

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