Agents at border want upgrades, but taxpayers not so surePosted: Updated:
PHOENIX - Agents are using new see through technology to try to stop the flow of illegal immigrants, weapons and drugs.
The back scatter is a $750,000 piece of equipment, much like the x-ray machines at Sky Harbor Airport. It's a mobile device mounted on a truck that allows agents to look for hidden compartments and contraband.
And while this technology is helping, agents say there is still one big problem at this check point.
Along the U.S. - Mexico border there are 34 permanent check points, but the crossing with the most traffic between Tucson and Nogales is temporary.
Interstate 19 between Tucson and Nogales is the busiest check point along the U.S. - Mexico border.
"We're seizing 54% of all the marijuana in the country right here," said Mike Scioli, U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
And yet border agents are working in what some say are primitive conditions, a trailer and a couple of cones in the road.
"As you look around this is not what a permanent check point should have," Scioli said.
"The Arizona border has been ignored by the federal government for many years," said Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
From Washington D.C., Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who represents Southern Arizona told 3 on Your Side there was a strategic decision to build up the California and Texas border check points over the years and in the meantime she says Arizona has basically been ignored.
"I'm angry that the federal government ignored our state and left us to deal with this problem on our own," Giffords said.
One of the problems according to border agents is the fact that they don't have a permanent check point.
"As you see our agents are out there in the street right here a little bit at risk," Scioli said. "Just three days ago a drunk driver came up and drove right through it."
Border agents want another lane for commercial traffic, an actual building not a trailer, a secondary inspection area and more technology but an upgrade that would cost tax payers millions of dollars.
Nearby residents are vehemently against it and many critics say a check point is nothing more than a symbolic show of force that slows traffic and causes congestion.
For now, $1.4 million will be spent to upgrade conditions here and in a matter of months lawmakers are expected to decide whether or not a bigger check should be written for a more permanent check point.
Congresswoman Giffords said they are awaiting the results of a study by the government accountability office to determine how effective border check points are.
Those results should be out in July. In the meantime, the $1.4 million upgrade is expected to be completed by the end of the summer.