9 On Your Side Border Watch

Nogales border fence replacement already a boost in security and economy

CREATED Jul. 9, 2011

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Reporter: Steve Nuñez

NOGALES, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) – Construction workers are almost finished replacing 2.8 miles of the old rusting border wall that stretches across Nogales. The new bollard-style fence promises to be stronger, taller and help increase border security.

Mayor Arturo Garino welcomes the sight of the new border fence.

“There are some people that wish there was no fence,” said Garino.

But Garino will tell you times have changed especially with the threat of drug smugglers.

”I was born in Nogales,” said Garino. “I remember this area here and going up that hill it was nothing but a five string barbed wire fence.”

However, Garino claims in his 58 years living in the twin border city, 60 drug tunnels have been discovered there. He said smugglers recently tried to pass bails of marijuana across through the city’s sewer system.

The U.S. Border Patrol said replacing the old landing-mat fence with the taller see-through bollard-style fence will protect agents from rock throwers and increase border security. The new fence stands 30 feet tall and it’s grounded by a six-foot deep concrete slab.

9 On Your Side Reporter Steve Nuñez asked Garino: “Do you really think the fence is going to deter people from coming across at least through Nogales? Or, push them to no-man's land where they're still going to come across?”

That's something that's been mentioned in the past,” said Garino. “Yes, it could push them out to the desert but also strong enforcement could do that.”

But for some residents, like Ruben Hernandez, who has lived his whole life just feet from the fence, the new fence, while it’s no longer an eye-soar, raises a new sense of fear.  

"My main concern was like bullets but its really not that bad,” said Hernandez.

On the other side of the fence, where cartels have had gun battles as recently as last year, residents like Ricardo Nolasco told KGUN9 News he believes the bad guys will continue to do what they've always done.

"It's maybe more easy for the people try to cross drugs or weapons,” said Nolasco as he referred to the space between the big steel poles that make up the new fence.

Still, the Border Patrol said agents will now be able to see the threat at the fence and stop them before they try to cross drugs or people.

Garino said this boost in security has also been a boost in Nogales' economy.

"The fuel, the food, the hotels everything here is helping us,” said Garino.

Construction on replacing the old fence started in early March. The new fence is expected to be completed by July 22nd.

The total cost of the project is $11.6 million.