Their stories are being heard in Washington as a GOP House delegation made a visit to the Arizona-Mexico border this week. The officials met with Border Patrol agents and visited ranchers like Chilton, and his wife, Sue.
Jim and Sue Chilton have had deer cameras at their border ranch for five years. Sue Chilton said in the past five years, she has not seen women and children crossing the border — it’s been mostly men.
“Our route through us is a drug and human smuggling route...as the cartel is squeezed at the points of entry, they will send more and more of their traffic between the points of entry because that is currently the weak link…no apprehension, no surveillance,” Sue said.
Some who live along the border say this is why a wall is needed – they see first-hand the issue paralyzing Washington right now.
“What's the cost of not securing the border? Billions. Think of the drugs coming into this country, the poison,” Chilton said.
Republican members of Congress toured the border this week and met with Border Patrol agents. They were shown parts of the border that had barbed wire or just a rope holding fences together. Suddenly, the wall ends and it's just vast, open land.
Border agent Art Del Cueto said 40 percent of the illegal drugs smuggled into the U.S. came through this part of the border.
“It’s not a problem that affects just the border,” Del Cueto said. “It's not a problem that affects just the congressional leaders within border states because the drugs that are coming through here are going into the United States further into the country. And it’s a big deal.”
He said smugglers and drug dealers simply go around barriers.
Del Cueto said the term border wall has become an explosive issue. But to him, it’s exactly what’s needed.
“I think the issue that a lot of people have is they hear the word wall and they stay focused on brick and mortar—we need something because I can tell you right now this ain't cutting it,” Del Cueto said. “So, this is basically what you have dividing us here.”
U.S. Customs agent Patricia Cramer, who also serves as president of the Arizona chapter of the port of entry employee union, said there are “so many” migrants coming in—that the agency doesn’t have the space and staffing to process them all, which leads to people violating and abusing the immigration system.
“There has to be a stop to it,” Cramer said. “I hope that Congress works with the president.”
But Nogales Police Chief Roy Bermudez said while a wall at the border would delay – but not stop – migrants from crossing, the focus of the immigration talks should be adding more agents and buying better technology.
Bermudez said in the 34 years he’s been in the city, he’s seen different types of walls and fences that have eventually been damaged.
“At the end of the day, that's only a barrier and barriers are going to be jumped, are going to be dug, people are going to go through them,” Bermudez said. “Technology and boots on the ground is what's going to get the job done. Not really a wall that would just create a barrier that's going to be jumped.”