Jim Chilton and his ancestors have been involved in ranching in Arizona since the late 1800s. In recent years, the aging rancher has been forced to divide his time between running a successful cattle business and keeping a watchful eye out for cartel smuggling on his remote border ranch south of Arivaca, Arizona.
Chilton sometimes finds himself helping migrants in distress and, at other times, keeping a sharp eye out for the cartel smugglers and foot guides that push hundreds or thousands of migrants and narcotics across his land.
In a recent report by the Daily Mail, Chilton can be seen patrolling the remote desert ranch armed with a carbine he carries to protect himself and his family. The area where the Chilton ranch is located is known for the crossing of hundreds of migrants monthly, where Border Patrol agents have reduced routine patrols at times due to the increase in migrant crossings elsewhere.
The ranch sits between Nogales and Lukeville, Arizona, directly across the border from the Mexican state of Sonora — known for its violent Sinaloa cartel activity. Chilton told the Daily Mail his activities on the ranch are under constant surveillance by armed cartel members equipped with scoped rifles and night vision. The smugglers, Chilton says, routinely traffic people across his ranch into the United States.
Chilton says his dealings with the cartel have worsened over the last three years, but the illicit activity is nothing new to the seasoned cattle rancher. In 2018, nearly eight years ago, Chilton sat with the late Penny Starr, a Breitbart News reporter, to discuss what living on the ranch in the remote border area was like.
In her report for Breitbart News, Starr accompanied Chilton on a tour of the ranch as they discussed his experiences dealing with cartel operatives seeking to move migrants and narcotics into the United States. “Most of our ranch is occupied by the Sinaloa Cartel,” Chilton told Starr, referring to one of the most violent cartels operating in the region.
Chilton was dealing with similar cartel activities at that time, which have only worsened over the years. Chilton told Breitbart News the cartel members were not only bringing drugs, weapons, and people across the border but the cartel scouts were also positioned on mountaintops to monitor for the presence of Border Patrol agents.
The level of migrant crossings in the area has spiked in recent months as efforts underway in Mexico have reduced the migrant flow farther east in Texas by up to 60% in some areas. The efforts in Mexico, mainly concentrated on removing migrants from freight train routes known as “La Bestia” or the beast, have little impact on the western states of Arizona and California. The increase in migrant crossings in Arizona may be a sign Chilton’s battle with the cartel is far from over.
A source within U.S. Customs and Border Protection, not authorized to speak to the media, told Breitbart Texas migrant apprehensions in the area have increased by nearly 120 percent during February as compared to the same time frame last year. In the first three weeks of the month, more than 33,000 migrants have been apprehended by the Border Patrol compared to slightly more than 15,000 during the first three weeks of February 2023.
Since the new fiscal year began in October, more than 284,000 migrants entered in and around Chilton’s ranch in the Tucson Sector. This total marks a 173 percent increase compared to last year’s total of 105,000 for the same time frame.
The source told Breitbart Texas “Thousands of migrants are willingly surrendering near Lukeville and San Miguel, dealing with that humanitarian situation keeps us from actively patrolling other areas like the Chilton Ranch where migrants are not surrendering and instead are hoping to completely avoid apprehension.”
Randy Clark is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol. Prior to his retirement, he served as the Division Chief for Law Enforcement Operations, directing operations for nine Border Patrol Stations within the Del Rio, Texas, Sector. Follow him on Twitter @RandyClarkBBTX.