Southern Arizona | Investigating 4 You

N4T Investigators: Border Build – UPDATE

TUCSON – Last month, the News 4 Tucson Investigators were the first to uncover plans for a new construction project along the border in Santa Cruz County.

The News 4 Tucson Investigators have since learned much more about that project.

“The real problem is not the illegals. The real problem is the drug people, because they’re armed – that’s the real problem,” said Alex Mills, who operates the Buena Vista ranch that lies right along the U.S. Mexico border east of Nogales.

Despite the border being in his backyard, Mills tells the News 4 Tucson Investigators he does not see a lot of people crossing here illegally.

“I’ve only seen one woman in 40 years, and she was on a ranch road and hurt herself and wanted to be found because she needed help. That’s the only person I’ve seen in 40 years,” Mills said.

The Buena Vista ranch lies on the border where the United States and Mexico are separated by a fence built in 2008.

Though at one point, the fence ends and is replaced by vehicle barriers.

The News 4 Tucson Investigators learned last month that Joint Task Force North was requesting heavy equipment rental and support.

Items they were requesting included a rough-terrain crane, dump trucks, bulldozers, fuel and operator time.

We wanted to know what they were planning to build.

The News 4 Tucson Investigators contacted the number listed on the government’s solicitation notice, but the person who answered could not give us any information and took our name and number.

Later, a representative from Joint Task Force West called us back and told us they were building a road.

But, when the News 4 Tucson Investigators went to the project area in Santa Cruz County, we saw a Border Patrol SUV driving on a dirt road next to the border fence.

The day after our story aired, Border Patrol sent the News 4 Tucson Investigators the following statement:

As part of the on-going long term support to U.S. Customs and Border Protection by the Department of Defense, Joint Task Force North will break ground on two construction projects in Southern Arizona in March.
The first project is bridge construction across the Santa Cruz River and the adjacent floodplain, an area heavily impacted by rainwater, prohibiting safe travel and access by law enforcement officials.
Upon completion, the project will allow agents quick access to the area for improved border security.
Additionally, JTF-N will continue efforts on an all-weather construction project on Baboquivari and Presumido roads in Southern Pima County. The second project will allow for multiple low water crossings, culverts, and retaining walls along the road for use during inclement weather.   

When the News 4 Tucson Investigators returned to the area this week, we saw construction equipment being staged at the area.

We also have learned the government awarded a $1.9 million contract for the equipment rental.

Mills tells the News 4 Tucson Investigator he believes the bridge over the Santa Cruz will help agents do their job, and also help keep life along this stretch of the border, peaceful.

“It’s a great place to live, and in our case, you have Border Patrol on the property 24/7, so it’s like having a private police force 24/7. So, no, I’m not afraid at all. It’s probably one of the safest places you could find.” Mills said.

If you have something you would like the News 4 Tucson Investigators to investigate, email us at, or call the News 4 Tucson Investigators tip-line at (520) 955-4444.

Paul Birmingham

Paul Birmingham

Paul Birmingham is an Edward R. Murrow Award winning broadcast journalist and Investigative Producer with the News 4 Tucson Investigators. Paul is a Tucson native, UA graduate, and licensed private investigator.
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