Jim and Sue Chiltons cattle ranch runs along the U.S.-Mexico border for about five and a half miles. Most of it is next to a metal border wall, until it suddenly stops and is replaced by a much shorter, more pervious metal fence.
That is where the Chiltons say most people end up crossing over into the U.S., and more specifically, into their property.
We started here in about 87. And there was no problem, Sue told KGUN. There were people coming across but they were just folks looking for a job.
But the Chiltons say that changed around 2008, when the Sinaloa Drug Cartel took over the borderlands outside of Arivaca, Arizona.
Since then, foot traffic through their ranchcaught by surveillance cameras, has consisted of mostly men wearing camouflage, and carpet shoes to conceal their tracks.
Jim says he has five hidden cameras installed on five separate trails through his sprawling property, which he says includes 2,000 acres of private land and more than 48,000 acres of state and federal land that they lease for grazing rights.
Jim says in the past two to five years, those cameras caught roughly 250 people a year, before increasing tenfold to 2,500 people over eight months in 2022.
Ive been told by intelligence officers with the Border Patrol in this area, about 20% are packing drugs, he said. So thats 500! Five hundred drug packers coming through my ranch Theyre here to poison our people.
Jim also says they have previously spotted armed migrants on the property, as well as migrants running back to the border.
South-bounders are the guys who already dropped their load and are headed back to get paid, said Sue. Theyre going just as fast as they can.
Jim says hes seen people perched on top of the nearby mountains, alerting groups trying to sneak through the property.
We know were always being watched. And so, you kinda get used to it, he said.
It became dangerous for me to be out there by myself, Sue added. I have a little gun, but Im also 80.
Yet the Chiltons still stil pipe water to 29 drinking fountains on the ranch.
Nobody needs to die in the desert, even if theyre a drug packer, said Jim. Its awful. Ive had probably 35 people die on the ranch Its a humanitarian crisis.
A crisis the Chiltons believe can be solved.
How it can be done is to finish the wall, said Jim. Put in the sensors, the fiber-optic communications and the electricity. Finish the wall and have Border Patrol at the wall.
But what Jim and Sue hope for is much different than the reality theyve had to accept.
You live with the idea that there are cartel scouts on our mountains, that hundreds of people are coming through my ranch, Jim said. And thats just the way it is.