A Fountain Hills resident took out a $120,000 loan on his house to help build one mile of fence along the southern U.S.-Mexico border.
Jim Campbell, a retired homebuilder and volunteer for the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, said he used the money to buy 10,000 feet of square pipe that will be used for the fence across the border from Naco, Mexico.
Ranchers have given the Minutemen permission to build four miles of fence on their land to prevent illegal immigration in the highly trafficked area, Campbell said.
“We’re overwhelmed: Our health services, our law enforcements, our school and such,” he said. “The government has failed to step forward. I think that there’s no other alternative but to build a fence.”
Chris Simcox, president of the Minuteman group, did not return a call Thursday, but wrote in a statement that, “Jim Campbell is a great American who has stepped forward to ensure the success of the effort.”
Campbell, an Air Force veteran, said he normally donates to disabled veterans charities, but this issue is more pressing. “It’s a significant portion of my retirement nest egg, but I wanted to send a message,” Campbell said. “I just felt, quite frankly, that this is a crisis facing our country right now.”
The completed fence will have barbed wire at the top and security cameras monitored by the Minutemen.
Installation will start in two weeks.
“It’s not impenetrable, but we’ll monitor it. We’re just going to make it that much more difficult for them,” he said.
Each year an estimated 1 million people slip over the 2,000 mile U.S.-Mexico border, according to the Border Patrol. In 2005 the Border Patrol apprehended 1.17 million border crossers. More than 500,000 were arrested trying to cross the Arizona portion of the border.
Campbell’s donation was criticized by Elias Bermudez, a immigration reform activist who said he believes the solution to the immigration problem is for the government to develop a legal work program, not to build a fence.
“Building fences along the border is not only a waste of time, it is also detrimental to the friendship between two countries,” he said. “I think if he would have given 100 guys who wanted to cross the fence $1,000 dollars each to go back home, it would be more effective than whatever fence they built.”