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Mar 4, 2013 8:37 PM by Erika Flores

Ranchers react to immigrant death on I-19

TUCSON - Border ranchers said they've seen an increase in border crossings recently and are on high alert after a deadly accident.

An immigrant woman was hit and killed on I-19 Sunday night.

The Border Patrol said a mobile surveillance system operator alerted them of the group, but the Border Patrol said they were not actively pursuing them when the woman was hit.

Rancher Jim Chilton's land is 50,000 acres and it stretches all the way to the border.

He said it's very likely the immigrant struck on I-19 Sunday night was part of a group that passed through his land earlier in the day.

Chilton said he ran into Border Patrol Sunday.

"They were trying to find a group they thought were coming through," said Chilton.

Chilton's ranch is Southwest of Arivaca, but his land is vast stretching to the border.

It's a popular route for immigrants.

"It happens all the time," said Chilton.

With its canyons and several mountains, there are plenty of places for them to hide from Border Patrol agents and ways to disguise their tracks.

"They couldn't find them because they said they're wearing carpet shoes and we can't track them," said Chilton.

Chilton commonly finds those so-called "carpet shoes" on his land.

"The idea is that this carpet results in them not being able to be tracked by border patrol," said Chilton.

Chilton said he's seen it all, but he's still shocked to hear about the immigrant stuck on I-19.

"It's tragic anytime anybody loses their life. We've all got to be really concerned," said Chilton.

He said he wouldn't be surprised if this group was used as a decoy by a drug cartel.

"While they snuck drugs through in another route," said Chilton.

Rancher David Beckham used to live near Chilton, but said he moved away because illegal activity just kept getting worse.

Beckham fears federal cuts affecting border patrol, and immigration reform proposals will bring in more border crossings.

"If you open the flood gates, you've got to expect some water to come through," said Beckham.

Chilton said he just hopes the border is secured before any immigration reform is passed.

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