'Danger and Desperation' Grow on This Arizona Ranch

The 'NYT' looks at how the border crisis is impacting Jim Chilton's Arizona cattle ranch
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 25, 2024 5:05 AM CST
He's 84, Has a Front-Row Seat to the Border Crisis
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Matthew Jolley)

"Nobody should be out here," says Jim Chilton, 84, after spying a campfire in the distance on his remote Arivaca, Arizona, ranch. His cattle-grazing land is three times bigger than Manhattan, and 5.5 miles of his property run along the US-Mexico border. As Eli Saslow writes in a lengthy piece for the New York Times, Chilton and his wife, Sue, have spent the past few years watching the "situation worsen." Some 150 smuggling trails crisscross their land; they've installed hidden cameras, as well as water fountains they hope will keep dehydrated migrants alive. They've testified before Congress. But "each night, the crisis brought more danger and desperation onto their ranch," which is where an estimated 250 people crossed into the US daily.

With Saslow alongside him, Chilton drove up to the campfire he'd spied and found some 45 people gathered there; they'd crossed through a 3-by-3-foot hole in the border wall. "They were fleeing civil war in Sudan, caste discrimination in India, starvation in rural Guinea, and organized crime in Albania," writes Saslow. With Title 42 having expired in May, most asylum-seekers are no longer automatically turned away but allowed to remain in the US while their cases wind through court. And so rather than continue north into the desert, they waited to be apprehended on Chilton's land so they could apply for asylum. "It took at least two hours for each Border Patrol van to drive onto the Chiltons' ranch and pick up a group of people, who were then usually fingerprinted at a border facility and released," with a court date a year off. (Read the full story.)

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