Tubac in turmoil over 'temporary' checkpoint
Simone Del Rosario
Photo: Video by kgun9.com
TUBAC, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - Shopkeepers in Tubac said the border patrol checkpoint on Interstate 19 has hurt their community and business, and now they're receiving more bad news.
Business owner Garry Hembree said the checkpoint, located four miles north of the tourist town, has been driving away business for years.
"They said, 'Oh we quit going down there because the checkpoint is such a hassle,'" Hembree shared.
He's had his shop in Tubac for more than 30 years. The temporary checkpoint has been stationary for three years.
"I think it should be temporary and sprung up at a moments notice, when people didn't know it would be there," he said. "That would be the ideal way. Permanent: Everyone knows where it's at."
Though U.S. Border Patrol told the town Wednesday it doesn't plan to build a permanent structure in its place, the temporary checkpoint will stay put.
Paul Cisek of Tubac Market said he'll deal with it, but he wishes he didn't have to.
"We've learned to live with it," Cisek said. "We're a very resilient town: We've been through good times and bad. So we do what we have to do to make it -- But I know without a doubt that the shopkeepers wish it was gone."
While many shopkeepers are against the location of the checkpoint, not everyone feels the same way. Nine On Your Side spoke to a local rancher who said that since the checkpoint has been there, he's seen a lot less illegal activity on his property.
Border patrol said the checkpoint is effective. Just this year, agents at the checkpoint have seized hundreds of thousands of dollars in drugs. In August, they found more than $100,000 in heroin and marijuana hidden in a modified gas tank. In July, they buste Mexican nationals with $160,000 of methamphetamine behind the rear tires.
But shopkeepers still have doubts.
"You think the checkpoint is stopping them?" Hembree asked. "They may catch some but they don't catch them all."