To many, Donald Trump’s pledge to build a wall along the US-Mexico border is unrealistic. But for Jim Chilton, it’s the only way he’ll get a good night’s sleep.
The 77-year-old, a fifth-generation rancher on the Arizona border with Mexico, says he has grown weary of seeing drug smugglers–rather than just cattle–on his ranch and a wall is the answer to his troubles.
“I really admire Trump for having the insight and the knowledge to know what’s wrong with the current border system,” he said, as he surveyed the sprawling desert plains of his 75-square-mile ranch that stretches to the Mexican border.
“We need a wall. I’ve been saying that for 10 years . . . and we need roads along the boundary and the border patrol to be deployed there and not let anybody in,” he added. “It would make my life so much better and I’d feel more secure.”
Chilton, who admits that Trump was not his first choice among the Republican candidates for the White House, says building a barrier to secure the 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) US-Mexico frontier not only makes sense but is also a question of national security.
“I live in a no-man’s land. I live in a land that is occupied by the Sinaloa drug cartel,” he sighed, pointing to mountains on his ranch where he said scouts equipped with sophisticated equipment are posted as lookouts for smugglers.
“I have seen cartel scouts on these two mountains before . . . and even in my front yard,” he said. “I wave at them and they often yell ‘hola’ and wave back.”
Chilton–who keeps a gun holstered on his hip, a rifle by his front door and a pistol by his bedside–added that he and other ranchers are also in favor of beefed up security in remote border areas as extremist groups like Islamic State (IS) may be using them to slip operatives into the United States.
But beyond the drug cartels and threat of terrorism, Chilton insists that Trump’s wall is all the more necessary for humanitarian reasons.
“It’s just outrageous for me to find a dead body on my ranch. It’s outrageous for the border patrol to find a dead body and it’s outrageous for my cowboys,” he said, referring to migrants who often die making the crossing into the US through the brutal desert.
“This is as big a humanitarian issue as it is a national security issue.”
According to the US Border Patrol, nearly 2,600 bodies have been recovered since 1998 from the desert in the Tucson, Arizona sector which covers 262 miles of the border.