AT THE ARIZONA-MEXICO BORDER -- Rancher Jim Chilton wrestles his brush-scarred Ford F-350 pickup truck down the rutted dirt road that leads to the Mexican border. He spots a youth ahead, walking south, stooped with exhaustion. The boy, dusty, his ragged pants tied at the waist with rope, looks back as the truck jounces towards him, but he doesn’t run. “Notice the carpet shoes?” Chilton asks a passenger. Drug smugglers tie on carpet-soled overshoes to disguise their tracks, he observes, as he rolls down his window.
“Do you need water?” Chilton asks the boy in Spanish. “Sí, gracias,” he says. He eagerly guzzles from the two-liter bottle Chilton passes him. The boy says he’s Ivan, 15, and that he ran out of food and water two days earlier.
This encounter between a rancher and a migrant — or, possibly, a smuggler — on a remote stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona’s Altar Valley might seem happenstance. But in an important sense, it is not: The more than $106 billion the United States has spent on securing and militarizing its Southwest border over the last five years has created this situation, bringing them together here on this day, the armed rancher guarding his land, the boy using it as a travel route.