By Suleika Acosta, KOLD News 13
Southern Arizona residents continue to fight the idea of a permanent checkpoint on I-19 near Green Valley. It's a story we've been following for several months.
Now, the Border Patrol is giving their side of the story. They say plans to replace the temporary checkpoint are underway with or without residents' approval.
When it comes to defending the border, agents refer to Southern Arizona as a gaping hole.
"We're hearing daily that one of the reasons drug and alien smugglers continue to use our corridor is because we don't have permanent check points," says sector chief Robert Gilbert.
Arizona makes up only 13 percent of the border, but officials say the state makes almost half of all illegal immigrant apprehensions and marijuana seizures on the entire U.S.-Mexico border. That's why Gilbert says a permanent checkpoint is the solution.
Residents along I-19 are opposed to the idea. They believe the checkpoint will only funnel crime into their communities.
"It's the not in my backyard syndrome. People want a checkpoint but they don't want it where it impacts them," Gilbert says.
For months, residents have held meetings with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Border Patrol officials. Chief Gilbert says it has given residents a chance to voice their concerns -- not to give input on whether or not the checkpoint will be built.
"We're not going to ask permission to do our job."
Border Patrol officials are using a permanent check point near Laredo as a blueprint for the proposed I-19 facility. The plan is to implement the latest technology with cameras, ground sensors and x-ray truck scanners.
Officials are already securing the 14 million it will cost to build the modern facility.
"In a perfect world, we wish we could secure the border directly on the border but due to the terrain challenges and a lot of other issues we have to deal with as well as a massive volume of narcotics and people, we're forced to have a defensive depth strategy."
An interim checkpoint on kilometer 50 could be in place in about a year. We're told it could be another four years before it could become the permanent facility.
People will have another chance to voice their concerns Tuesday August 21 at Sahuarita High School, beginning at 4 p.m.
7831 N. Business Park Drive