♪ this is "nightline." >> tonight, missing at the border. our john quinones goes behind the headlines and the politics of the immigration debate. >> how tough are the conditions out there? >> it's dangerous. they're putting their lives at risk. >> border protection officials turned first responders. one family's desperate journey to find their loved one. >> when he was missing, it was hard. because i was thinking that nobody will believe me. >> it's fortunate -- important to have the remains back. to be with their loved ones as close as they can. back to the prairie. >> home is the nicest word there is. >> melissa gilbert, laura ingals wilder from "a little house on the prairie," who is found her way home.
>> now i have my own prairie, which is what i always really wanted, which was the life i pretended to have on television. >> overcoming the pressures to fit in in hollywood and finding her best life. >> i think age should be celebrated and not feared. and bye-bye ipod. apple discontinues the little gadget that started it all and revolutionized how we listen to music. music.
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♪ thanks for joining us. tonight, it's the untold crisis of humanity along america's southwest border. punishing territory that can be deadly. especially this time of year. it's all part of the pressing immigration debate that's dividing washington. abc's john quinones takes us to meet some of the families searching for answers and the people trying to help. >> give a nice pull where you're not too tight, just like that, perfect. good to go? >> contact approach 125. >> just approaching the air force base. we'll be heading down for the mountain range south of tucson. >> the border is about 45 miles? >> roughly. >> reporter: high above arizona, a team of agents from air and
marine operations are on a rescue mission. >> 911 calls and rescues are up right now. >> reporter: searching goes those in desperate need of help before it's too late. >> the hotter months, it's going to be rough. >> reporter: it's not just hikers, it's undocumented migrants. how tough are the conditions out there? >> it's dangerous. everything bites you, stings you, poisons you. they're putting their lives at risk. >> reporter: stepping into this country illegally means entering into a complex and often unclear and confusing immigration system. decades of failed reforms and ideological divides leading to piecemeal policies. in the end, they've done little to stem the flow of illegal border crossings. >> the battle over immigration -- >> the governor of texas is taking his immigration fight to washington -- >> some republicans calling for the homeland security secretary to resign --
>> reporter: desperation driving people to extremes for the chance at the american dream. for far too many, that chance comes at a cost. data from customs and border protection between october 2020 and august 2021 showing authorities recovered 476 bodies along the border. advocates say that number is likely much higher. the families of the missing left hoping for a closure that may never come. >> i was thinking, nobody will believe me. >> tell me about your son. what was he like? >> you cried a lot?
>> reporter: it's been more than a year of silence for claudia martinez. all that time she's been hoping she would hear from her son, roberto carlos. why did he decide to come to the u.s.? >> in honduras? >> what was his plan here in the u.s.? >> reporter: the last time the family heard from carlos was after he crossed into texas in early april. by his mother's side, his aunt, maria. >> he called sarah. told her, i'm going to walk for
two days. my sister asked him, are you okay? are you sure about this? >> he was planning to walk from mcallen, texas, to san antonio? >> correct. >> reporter: that trek, almost 240 miles through rugged terrain and harsh conditions. when did you know something was wrong? >> my sister tried to text him, call him on his cell phone, and no answers. my sister said, something is wrong, carlos, he's not like that, he always answers my text messages. then we started worrying. >> reporter: maria raced across the country to retrace the steps of her nephew. armed with missing person posters, seeking out the help of don white. he's a search and recovery deputy with the brooks county sheriff's office. >> a piece of clothing just over there. so then the hard search starts.
it's important to have the remains back. so they have a place to go to put flowers. to worship. to be with their loved one, as close as they can. >> reporter: for decades, people have made the life-and-death journey in hopes of a better life. 20 years ago, i walked a similar path through southern arizona with several immigrants and a coyote, a smuggler. they call this el camino diablo, the devil's highway. >> we've been traveling 20 hours now. the temperature in the shade has already reached 120. >> reporter: we witness a search for a young woman gone missing. >> over here, we found a pair of fee mill tennis shoes. >> reporter: her story ends tragically. >> we gave it our best shot. we tried. >> reporter: now claudia and maria are bracing for news of their own. >> they found some clothes.
close to some remains. >> what went through your mind when you heard that news? >> reporter: more than a year after those remains were found, claudia is still waiting for the dna results to confirm they belong to carlos. for some families, answers come decades later. >> over here searching for unidentified human remains that are presumed migrants. we found two burials so far. >> reporter: kate spradley is with the anthropology department at text state university. >> our systems for missing unidentified persons work really well if you're a u.s. citizen.
in transnational situations where you have families in latin america, it's very hard for them to get their dna into our federal systems. >> reporter: her team, working with counties around texas to search unmarked graves believed to be missing migrants and help fill in the gaps where the federal government falls short. >> it is an uphill battle. but last year we exhumed somebody from brooks county who had been missing for 21 years from honduras. so it gives me hope that we can identify these individuals here. >> reporter: at the air force base in tucson, michael montgomery's team is hard at work trying to find people before the situation turns dire. >> there's an active 911 call. >> reporter: joining us in the sky, tucson division chief steve krystinzio from u.s. border control. >> if you look at these rock outcroppings, they'll climb into
there for cover and can't detect them, then they'll find themselves in trouble. >> what does that tell you about the desperation? >> the misinformation, sending these individuals through this area, no idea what they're getting into. >> reporter: the last year alone, customs and border protection rescuing more than 13,000 nationwide. up 150% from a year before. they've got a unique challenge. enforcing border security while also acting as first responders in a life-saving rescue is needed. >> it sounds like a contradiction. you're doing law enforcement, but you're also doing h humanitarian? >> they do hand in hand, especially in the summer months. the search and rescue turns into humanitarian mission. >> reporter: on the ground we link up with jesus. after 13 years as a border patrol agent, he's no stranger how unforgiving this desert can
be. >> it's impossible for someone to carry enough water. they're going to be walking for five to seven days. >> jesus, you grew up in mexico? >> yes. >> most of the people you've apprehended, the thousands, are latino? >> yes. >> do you feel guilty about that? >> no. because they're latino, you know, i don't feel guilty. it is my job to apprehend people that cross the border illegally. it is my job to enforce immigration laws. >> reporter: 20 miles north of the border, he brings us to a rescue beacon that he says has helped save lives. >> it has a red button. when you push that button, it will send a signal to our office. then we can come and rescue people. >> reporter: for claudia and maria, the pain of loss still cuts deep. they're now working to assist other families find their missing loved ones, helping immigrants and warning them.
what message do you have for other people trying to come here? >> if you could talk to carlos now, what would you say to him? >> he knows that we love him. and i did my best to help him. yeah, he knows that i love him so much. >> our thanks to john. when we come back, the little girl america fell in love with in the '70s, melissa gilbert. she's all grown and sharing her secrets to happiness. looking to get back in your type 2 diabetes zone? once-weekly ozempic® can help. ♪ oh, oh, oh, ozempic®! ♪ ♪ oh, oh, oh ♪ ozempic® is proven to lower a1c. most people who took ozempic® reached an a1c under 7 and maintained it.
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♪ melissa gilbert has spent most of her life in the glare of the public eye. but hollywood was never her happy place. what she always yearned for was something like the idyllic little house on the prairie, perhaps, just like her best-known tv character, laura ingalls wilder. our own stephanie ramos, who was a fan of "little house" and gilbert growing up, got to meet her. >> come here, cocoa. kiki, come here, ladies. do you want some lettuce? >> reporter: melissa gilbert is in her element. far away from hollywood. known for playing laura ingalls wilder on the beloved long-running tv show "little house on the prairie." >> i decided something. >> what's that, half pint? >> home is the nicest word there
is. >> reporter: gilbert has gone back to the homestead, here at her little cottage in the cat stills. >> this is where i'm happiest. getting dirty in the garden. hanging out with the chickens. having our quiet, peaceful, rural, kocozy life. >> you have your own prairie. >> i have my own prairie, which is what i wanted, i just didn't know how to get it, the life i wanted, the life i pretended to have on television. >> reporter: for gilbert, it's been the work of a lifetime, finding peace in her surroundings and in herself. >> i grew up in hollywood. in a hollywood family. and glamor was the name of the game. it was a sort of given that i would have my nose fixed. it was a given that as i aged i would start to fight it. by using botox and fillers. and it just became -- anathema to who i was on the inside. i think age should be celebrated and not feared. i have made a conscious decision
to live my life in the skin i'm in. >> you look amazing. >> oh, god bless you. >> reporter: in "back to the barry," gilbert talks about letting go of the pressures of a life lived in show business. >> quoting from the book, you said, i realized i needed to stop to move forward. what did you mean by that? >> i needed to stop being who everybody thought i should be. and be who i knew i was. in order to continue to grow into the woman that i still want to be someday. >> reporter: from half pint on "little house on the prairie" -- >> golly! ♪ ain't no mountain high enough ♪ >> reporter: to "dancing with the stars." the 58-year-old has been in the public eye virtually her entire life. >> when i see someone come up and start quoting dialogue from ""little house on the prairie"" and they burst into tears, i burst into tears. >> reporter: now nearly 50 years since "little house" premiered,
gilbert says it's still providing lessons for us all. >> it was the show that dealt with racism, pandemics, alcohol addiction, politics. >> heavy issues. >> and they don't go away. and the answers that we came up with on the show still work now in the 2020s. acceptance. tolerance. love. understanding. community. >> reporter: activism has always been part of gilbert's life. for years she served as president of the screen actors guild. in 2016, she even ran for congress in michigan's eighth district as a democrat. >> join our team. >> reporter: behind the scenes, gilbert has long dealt with chronic pain. in 2010, she broke her back. in 2017, she suffered a neck injury -- >> i hit my head. >> reporter: during a performance of "dancing with the stars." she finally got some relief with an artificial disk replacement in 2020.
part of gilbert's healing has gone beyond the physical. she's also been on a journey to adoptive father.the loss of her- beloved comedian and actor paul gilbert. >> i was a little version of my dad, basically. i would stand in the back of nightclubs and do his entire act at the age of 2 or 3 while he was on stage. >> reporter: when she was 12, gilbert's father passed away. but the way he died was kept a secret from her. >> when i was 45 years old, i found out that my father had, in fact, died by suicide. with a handgun. >> reporter: gilbert says her father had been grappling with his own untreated chronic pain after suffering a stroke. > i hired a private investigator and had them pull the coroner's report and the police report for me. because i needed to know. i needed to be able to honor this choice my father had made.
sorry. that's unexpected. >> what do you think your dad would say about where you are in life right now? >> my father would love this life that i have. i think i could hear my dad psaying, yeah, you finally got good one. >> reporter: that good one is timothy busfield, the star of the hit '80s tv show "30 something." >> especially the idea i like the idea of $100,000. >> reporter: the two married in 2013. >> tell us how this relationship, how this marriage with tim, is different compared -- >> to the on thethers? my poor ex-husbands. the thing i like most about my relationship with tim is it's a real and true partnership. it's the most comforting, easy relationship i've ever had with anyone in my life. >> reporter: back in the rural oasis she's created, gilbert may have a quieter life than she used to, but one that is no less fulfilling.
>> to me, achievement in life is something much different than that perfect role or that award. this is the last third of my life. what really matters is personal connection and love, really, is everything. >> our thanks to stephanie. up next, what's happening to the ipod? 20 years after it first came into our lives. this is the story of two homes. they both have bugs... (wince, grunting) gotcha. ...but only one has zevo. (buzzing) (spritzing) (can rattling) boy: my turn! (sigh) bother the bugs... ahh! oof... ...not your family. (groan) zevo is made with essential oils which attack bugs' biological systems. so zevo gets rid of the bugs plus is safe for use around people and pets. zevo. people-friendly. bug-deadly. ♪ ♪
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the ipod is going away. that little gadget that transformed the way we listened to music is being discontinued. the first ipod was introduced in 2001 and boasted a capacity of 1,000 songs. ipod touch, which looks like an iphone, came out in 2007. apple announcing they are still available for purchase on their website while supplies last. a little stroll down memory lane. that's "nightline." you can watch all our full episodes on hulu. we'll see you right back here same time tomorrow. thanks for staying