N4T Investigators: Southern Arizona rancher pushing for border c - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

N4T Investigators: Southern Arizona rancher pushing for border change

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A 4-foot barbed wire fence is the only barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border for a stretch of about 25 miles in Southern Arizona. The illegal activity rancher Jim Chilton regularly witnesses on his property is no laughing matter.

”The Sinaloa Cartel controls this area,” Chilton said. “As they move drug packers through the country, they know where the border patrol is at all times."

The Sinaloa Cartel's infamous leader, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, was captured in January, still the U.S. Intelligence Community considers the cartel to be the most powerful drug trafficking organization in the world.

Currently, the border patrol uses what they call "a defense-in-depth strategy" in rural areas along the border. This means they don't apprehend smugglers immediately as they cross. It can be hours, and sometimes days, if it all before smugglers are caught. Chilton believes this strategy is ineffective, particularly because the Tucson Border Patrol is only responsible for 24 miles along the border.

“I advocate it's easier to man a line rather than 4,000 square miles,” Chilton said.

The Chilton Ranch is located in the small town of Arivaca, just over an hour from Tucson. Chilton owns thousands of acres extending another 20 miles to the border, but due to the rugged terrain, the trip from his ranch house to the line takes two hours.

"What's needed is a wall, what's needed are roads and we need forward operating bases with the border patrol being out here rather than in Tucson,” Chilton said.

President of the local border patrol union, Art Del Cueto agrees that change along the border is much needed.

“We've heard about the catch and release program, we've heard about some individuals that have been caught within the United States that have been here illegally for many years but we don't detain them,” Del Cueto said.

Setting up motion activated cameras throughout his property Chilton has captured hundreds of images of illegal crossing and drug smuggling.

“In the last two years I've got over 500 images of drug packers coming through,” Chilton said. “It's converting from marijuana now more towards meth, cocaine and heroin."

President-elect Donald Trump campaigned on the promise that he would build a wall between the United States and Mexico. Trump was endorsed for president by the border patrol union. Del Cueto believes Trump’s victory will mean big changes for the state of our borders.

"I think we're going to be moving forward in the right direction and it's going to be very important for the agents and their families and most importantly the entire country,” Del Cueto said.

That’s extremely important to ranchers like Jim Chilton who are waiting to see if real changes will ever be made.

If you have a story you'd like us to investigate, email us at investigators@kvoa.com or call our tip line at 520-955-4444.

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