Outgoing Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has ordered construction crews back to the state’s border with Mexico to install hundreds of double-stacked shipping containers over the continued objections of the federal government and local law enforcement officials.
Santa Cruz County Sheriff David Hathaway, who presides over a nearby county where the construction was taking place, called the Republican governor’s actions “illegal dumping” and threatened to make arrests if state workers trespassed into his jurisdiction.
“The area where they’re placing the containers is entirely on federal land, on national forest land,” Hathaway told local news stations on Sunday. “It’s not state land, it’s not private land, and the federal government has said this is illegal activity. So just the way if I saw somebody doing an assault or a homicide or a vehicle theft on public land within my county, I would charge that person with a crime.”
Arizona officials have been laser-focused on closing gaps along the state’s border with Mexico ever since President Donald Trump left office with his goal to fill gaps in the border wall not yet entirely finished. The federal government said in July that it would fill the gaps, but that project has not yet begun.
Ducey’s office said President Joe Biden’s decision to formally end Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy is the reason why the state is using temporary materials to carry out Ducey’s “Border Barrier Mission” — a $6 million initiative started back in August.
The effort kicked off with 1,000 feet of 60 containers topped with razor wire at the border near Yuma, where officials feared lax containment by the U.S. government could lead to illegal migrant crossings.
“We can’t wait any longer,” Ducey said at the time. “The Biden administration’s lack of urgency on border security is a dereliction of duty.”
In October, the Biden administration asked Ducey to call off the effort, but the state filed a lawsuit, arguing that it was compelled to plug holes in the border until Washington provided some form of federal protection.
“Arizona is going to do the job that Joe Biden refuses to do – secure the border in any way we can.” Ducey said. “We’re not backing down. With the resources and manpower in the right places, our Border Patrol and law enforcement will be better equipped to do their jobs well and prevent cartels from exploiting our communities. That’s exactly what our barrier mission will do,” Ducey said.
More recently, environmental protests also delayed work on the makeshift wall.
“A lot of damage could be done here between now and early January,” said Russ McSpadden, a Southwest conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity who has visited the construction site.
The timing of Ducey’s decision to continue stacking the containers last week was also questioned as he is being replaced in January by Democrat Katie Hobbs who defeated Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake in the November election.
Hobbs said she planned to weigh “all the options” for settling the issue after she takes the helm on Jan. 5. Previously, she said the containers could potentially be used as affordable housing for low-income populations in the region.
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