John Carlin: On the road to Eagle Pass

The second of a series of blog posts as John covers Virginia troops on the border

EAGLE PASS, TEXASGet an inside look at John Carlin’s first day in Eagle Pass as part of 10 News’ On the Frontline coverage.


Monday, July 24

As I write this I’m sitting in the car. The air-conditioned car.

Around 5 p.m. EST, it was 102 degrees here in Eagle Pass.

That was when we began our live coverage of the story of the Virginia National Guard assisting with border patrols between Mexico and the United States along the Texas border.

Nothing like trying to look calm and cool on live television when you’re not. I’m hoping viewers will give me a bit of a pass.

As I’m sitting here I can see the massive Mexican flag flying on the other side of the Rio Grande River.

There are dozens of vehicles belonging to multiple law and border enforcement agencies.

We saw them escorting a small group of migrants along the river bank when we arrived.

Arriving at Eagle Pass wasn’t easy.

Because television news requires so much gear, we opted to ship most of our equipment to San Antonio ahead of time. WSLS-10 has a sister station there, KSAT. The plan was to go to KSAT this morning [July 24], grab the gear, and head two and a half hours southwest to Eagle Pass, which is the focal point of the national debate on the migrant issue, and also the focus of our reporting today.

Alas, the equipment had not yet arrived from Roanoke, and the clock was ticking.

Nothing like willing the UPS truck to come into view. Which, despite our efforts, it did not.

Thankfully KSAT drummed up enough gear to get us on the road, with the promise that we would make arrangements to get our own gear when it arrived.

But that gave them ample time to warn us about all the bad things that can happen while covering the border. Let’s call it the three B’s - Beams, as in sunbeams, bugs, and bandits.

Beams - The most obvious is the heat. This is not the kind of heat one takes lightly, and if I had an ounce of water for everyone who warned me to stay hydrated, I’d have enough to be good for months. But it’s no joke. See the previous reference to 102 degrees.

Bugs - Another border veteran warned us that there are all kinds of biting insects and other creatures we needed to be cautious of. And apparently, the plants here have more kinds of thorns and spikes than the average Virginian cannot possibly know about - so we were to be careful of this.

Bandits - But the biggest threat was from our fellow humans. Remember this is the border, where some of the people who are crossing into the United States are gentle, kindly folks looking for a better life. While others are trafficking drugs and humans and eluding authorities while trying to escape further inland to disappear into the lower 48.

“They will steal anything to sell and get money to move on,” cautioned one border veteran. “Don’t leave anything in your car, or out of your sight.”

They will, we were advised, “Break your window, and make off with your stuff if they even think it looks valuable.”

Great.

Day one is over and I’m still standing.

We arrived at the border and parked about 150 yards from the Rio Grande. We did live reports from our spot near the river, but farther away than I would have liked. I think they went ok, and it was a relief to get that part of the assignment done.

We could see all the activity of the various enforcement agencies, and it appears as if a group of about 4 migrants was being shepherded toward nearby trailers for processing.

We could see the bands of concertina wire along the river, and a massive Mexican flag flying across the river. We were reporting within feet of the border wall and even used it for shade for a bit. But tomorrow is when we will start to get a close-up view of whatever is happening here. We’ll be embedded with the Virginia National Guard, which is in the midst of a 30-day deployment assisting the Texas National Guard here on the border.

Look for live reports during our newscasts, and more in-depth reporting upon our return. Also, WSLS Insiders like you will get extra material as we collect it along the frontlines on the border.

Meanwhile, we’ll be looking out for stinging insects, dangerous plants, and anyone who wants to take our stuff.


See more coverage by clicking here.


About the Author:

John Carlin co-anchors the 5, 5:30, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts on WSLS 10.