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Faced with gun-toting drug smugglers, Arizona ranchers demand security at the border

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ARIVACA, Ariz. -- Just before nightfall, 73-year-old rancher Jim Chilton hikes quickly up and down the hills on his rugged cattle-grazing land south of Tucson, escorting two U.S. Border Patrol agents.

He wants to show them the disturbing discovery he made earlier in the day: a drug-smugglers' camp on his private property. Stacked together under a stand of trees are blankets, jackets, food, water, binoculars and bales of marijuana from Mexico wrapped in burlap. The smugglers, themselves, are nowhere in sight and are believed to have fled the area, which is about 10 miles north of the Mexican border.

"The druggers outrageously use my land at will," said Chilton, who frequently finds evidence of smugglers on his land -- well-worn trails, cut fences, discarded water bottles, clothing and shoes. His home has been burglarized twice and he is constantly on the lookout for armed smuggling groups while he and his employees round up cows on his remote land.

"Can you imagine riding your horse through here on your own land and running into a guy with an AK-47 and 20 or 30 guys behind him dressed in camouflage and carrying drugs?," he asked.

Like living ‘in a no-man’s land’

The land where Chilton raises his cattle covers 50,000 acres south of the small town of Arivaca, Ariz. About five miles of his property runs along the international border, where all that separates Mexico from the United States in most areas there is a four-strand barbed-wire fence. Chilton owns some of the land outright, but leases most it from the state and federal governments for cattle grazing.

Ranchers Jim and Sue Chilton in Arivaca, Ariz., say drug smugglers use their land frequently, and their home has been burglarized twice.

He and his wife, Sue Chilton, complain they feel caught in the middle between the Mexican drug and immigrant smugglers and the United States Border Patrol, which the Chiltons and other ranchers accuse of concentrating most of its patrols and checkpoints miles north of the border, far beyond where the ranchers live and work.

"It's like living in a no-man's land. The Border Patrol doesn't really protect us, they try to arrest people north of us," said Chilton. "I think the druggers should be stopped at the United States border. They shouldn't be allowed into this country. The Border Patrol should secure the border at the border."


R.I.P Spooky 2004-2015

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