A fifth-generation Arizona rancher accused lawmakers of refusing to secure the border for political purposes as the ongoing migrant crisis worsens, potentially giving terrorists the opportunity to sneak into the U.S. through his land.
“It’s people talking about the issues, arguing about the issues. Border security has always been a political football,” Jim Chilton, owner of the Chilton Ranch, told Fox News. “That’s the nature of our system.”
A long-awaited bipartisan border security deal aimed at gaining control of an overwhelmed asylum system at the southern border collapsed just days after it was revealed with all but four Republicans voting against the legislation advancing in the Senate. From the outset, GOP leaders in both chambers criticized the bill, with House Speaker Mike Johnson repeatedly calling it “dead on arrival.” Democrats accused conservatives of killing it for political purposes.
“Secure the international boundary and develop a program to bring people into this country legally,” Chilton told Fox News as a plea to Congress. “We’re a nation of the rule of law. We need to stop people just having the idea that they can walk into the United States.”
The bill would have given President Biden and the Department of Homeland Security authority to close the border if migrant encounters reached a certain threshold and allocated $20 billion for immigration enforcement. It also included $650 million for border wall construction and reinforcement.
But Republican critics, including House GOP leaders, said the legislation wasn’t aggressive enough to curb illegal immigration with migrant crossings skyrocketing under the Biden administration. In December, migrant encounters reached an all-time high of 302,000, according to Customs and Border Protection data.
And while lawmakers fumble solutions, the southern border crisis worsens, Chilton said.
“The problem in our area in the last three years has intensified immensely,” Chilton told Fox News. He said hidden cameras on his property have caught thousands of people illegally entering the country.
Some dress in all camouflage, Chilton said, and others use “carpet shoes” — footwear with carpet attached to the soles to hide footprints.
“They’re entering our country unseen, and they could be terrorists,” he said.
Officials encountered 169 people on the FBI terror watchlist illegally crossing the southern border in fiscal 2023, according to CBP data. That’s more than the previous year’s record-setting 98 encounters, as well as the last six years combined.
“I’m really concerned,” Chilton said. “If our adversaries around the world want to bring terrorists into our country, this is a route.”
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas denied blame for mass crossings at the southern border, he said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” Mayorkas, who’s expected to soon face a second impeachment attempt for failing to curb the migrant crisis, instead blamed Republicans for sinking the bipartisan bill and said Congress should be held accountable for America’s broken immigration system.
The failed border security deal also included a $95 billion foreign aid supplemental package. A standalone bill, which would include $60 billion for Ukraine, $14 billion for Israel and $8 billion for Taiwan, passed a 67-27 test vote Sunday.
But Chilton told Fox News keeping Americans safe should be lawmakers’ top priority.
“It would be outrageous not to secure our border first,” Chilton said. “Take care of America first. Seal the border.”
Ramiro Vargas contributed to the accompanying video.