BISBEE - The Minuteman Project has hired a private contractor to finish building its border fence at a local ranch, a spokesman for the group confirmed Wednesday.
"We don't want to put up something that will just be a symbol," he said. "We want to make sure it's permanent, properly structured and done right."
Garza said his group's volunteers would continue working on the fence alongside the contracted help.
The Minutemen began building the fence over Memorial Day weekend in hopes of inspiring the federal government to construct its own border barrier. And while an estimated 150 supporters turned out for the May 27 groundbreaking, the number of Minuteman volunteers actively working on the fence dwindled in the days that followed.
Cecile Lumer of the local humanitarian aid group Citizens for Border Solutions said she had seen no more than four people working at the site during her trips to fill migrant water stations in the nearby desert. She thought the arrival of the contractor suggested that the group had bit off more than it could chew. "The Minutemen have always been good at promoting themselves to the media," she said. "And from the beginning the numbers they have projected have always fallen very short of the reality."
A press release issued in advance of the Memorial Day event reported that the Minutemen had raised $225,000 for the effort and that more than 1,021 people had volunteered to help build the fence. The bulletin said the group was hoping to raise another $10 million for future barrier-building.
Jack Ladd, who along with his son, John, owns the 10-mile stretch of land where the fence is being built, said he had no objection to a contractor taking over the job - especially since the Minutemen are footing the bill.
"They assured us when we first talked about it that they would complete it, and that's what they're doing," he said.
And while the Minutemen may have had to turn to professionals to finish their fence, they have at least avoided an ironic end to the project: the contractor, Neil Grantham of McNeal, said that he hires only legally documented workers.
In an unrelated event, the Ladds filed a complaint Wednesday with the Cochise County Sherriff's Office after they discovered that vandals had slashed large sections of the new border fence. Jack Ladd said his son found at least 19 areas of fencing that had been destroyed sometime Tuesday night. And while he said there were no clues to indicate who was responsible, he expected the crime had involved illegal immigration.
It was a thought, he said, that frustrated him. Regardless of the Minutemen's intentions, Ladd said his family did not view the fence as a barrier against immigrants.
"From our perspective, the whole idea of the fence is to keep Mexican livestock out - we know a barbed wire fence isn't going to keep people out," he said. "We want to make it clear that while we oppose illegal immigration, we weren't necessarily trying to keep Mexicans off the land."
The Sheriff's Office did not have an incident report available by press time.