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As Congress looks to significantly boost funding for the U.S. Border Patrol as part of a new immigration bill, we investigate the impact of the police buildup at a West Texas checkpoint. The Sierra Blanca checkpoint along Interstate 10 was set up to catch major traffickers and immigrants who entered the country illegally. But the checkpoint now busts thousands of unsuspecting Americans a year for low-level drug possession – including some famous musicians.

Chavala Madlena – Producer & Reporter

David Ritsher – Producer & Editor

Stephen Talbot – Senior Producer

Robert Salladay – Story Editor

Josiah Hooper – Director & Camera

Andrew Becker – Reporter

G.W. Schulz – Reporter

Sharon Pieczenik – Second Camera & Associate Producer

Kerri Connolly – Multimedia Producer & Sound

Production Assistants – Rachel de Leon & Owen Wesson

Sam Ward – Graphics

Sharon Tiller – Executive Producer

Steve Oh for TYT – Chief Operating Officer

Mark Katches for CIR – Editorial Director

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Chavala Madlena is an investigative journalist and multimedia producer. Before joining The Center for Investigative Reporting, she was based at The Guardian’s investigative documentary unit, Guardian Films. Chavala has worked on stories ranging from death squads in Iraq to WikiLeaks, land grabbing in Africa, miscarriages of justice, al-Qaida, phone hacking and a joint BBC investigation into “vulture funds” that sue impoverished African nations for inflated amounts, a story that resulted in changes to legislation in the United Kingdom. Films she has worked on have won Webby, Edward R. Murrow and George Polk awards, and others have been nominated for Amnesty International, Rory Peck, One World Media and Commonwealth Broadcasting Association awards. Chavala has worked on stories for The Guardian, the BBC, The Centre for Investigative Journalism, Al-Jazeera, HBO, ProPublica, Current TV and MTV. She is a U.S. native but has worked in the U.K., Jerusalem, Moscow and Sydney.

Andrew Becker is a reporter for Reveal, covering border, national and homeland security issues, as well as weapons and gun trafficking. He has focused on waste, fraud and abuse – with stories ranging from border corruption to the expanding use of drones and unmanned aerial vehicles, from the militarization of police to the intersection of politics and policy related to immigration, from terrorism to drug trafficking. Becker's reporting has appeared in The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Newsweek/The Daily Beast and on National Public Radio and PBS/FRONTLINE, among others. He received a master's degree in journalism from UC Berkeley. Becker is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.


Sharon Pieczenik is a senior associate producer for The Center for Investigative Reporting. Her passion lies in creating multimedia stories that are both entertaining and educational. She has interviewed and filmed people from a myriad of cultures, from the gauchos of Argentina to the inmates of Montana state prisons, from miners in Wyoming to conservationists in Madagascar. Before joining CIR, Sharon crafted multimedia strategies and deliverables for organizations like Polar Bears International, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Natural History Unit Africa and Montana PBS. Sharon studied international relations at Stanford University and received her master’s degree in science and natural history filmmaking from Montana State University.

G.W. Schulz is a reporter for Reveal, covering security, privacy, technology and criminal justice. Since joining The Center for Investigative Reporting in 2008, he's reported stories for NPR, KQED,, The Dallas Morning News, the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle, Mother Jones and more. Prior to that, he wrote for the San Francisco Bay Guardian and was an early contributor to The Chauncey Bailey Project, which won a Tom Renner Award from Investigative Reporters and Editors in 2008. Schulz also has won awards from the California Newspaper Publishers Association and the Society of Professional Journalists’ Northern California Chapter. He graduated from the University of Kansas and is based in Austin, Texas.