Doug Ducey, Arizona’s outgoing Republican governor, has been overseeing an operation to stack thousands of shipping containers across valued conservation land along the state’s southern border, creating a makeshift wall to keep migrants out.
Ducey, who is set to leave office in early January due to term limits, says the barrier — which runs through the Coronado National Forest, which is protected federal land, and the Huachuca Mountains and San Rafael Valley — is necessary. He has accused the Biden administration of failing to tackle an “imminent danger of criminal and humanitarian crises” at the U.S.-Mexico border, echoing language that former president Donald Trump often used.
The wall, estimated to be 3,000 containers long, is expected to eventually span 10 miles and cost some $95 million, the Associated Press reported. The federal government has said the construction is unlawful and ordered state officials to halt it, and activists have warned of humanitarian and environmental concerns.
The latest criticism came from Santa Cruz County Sheriff David Hathaway, who warned over the weekend that anyone found to be helping to build the wall in his county will be arrested.
“The area where they’re placing the containers is entirely on federal land, on national forest land,” Hathaway told Fox 10 Phoenix on Saturday. “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,” Hathaway said.
Contractors had been working since August to stack containers along the border, the result of an executive order signed by Ducey that month, instructing Arizona’s Department of Emergency and Military Affairs to “close the gaps in Arizona’s southern border wall, regardless of location.”
In response to pushback from the federal government over the project, Ducey in October filed a complaint against the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and their chiefs, as well as Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, saying the state would continue to defend itself from mass migration.
“Our border communities are overwhelmed by illegal activity as a result of the Biden administration’s failure to secure the southern border,” Ducey said in a statement accompanying the lawsuit. “Arizona is taking action to protest on behalf of our citizens. With this lawsuit, we’re pushing back against efforts by federal bureaucrats to reverse the progress we’ve made. The safety and security of Arizona and its citizens must not be ignored.”
The Justice Department has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
Democrat Katie Hobbs, who is set to be inaugurated as Arizona’s governor on Jan. 5, has said she will halt the wall’s construction.
“It’s not land that’s our land to put things on,” she told KJZZ radio this week. “The containers aren’t working. There’s many pictures of people climbing over them.”
“I want to use our state’s resources not for things that are political stunts but that will actually solve the problems,” she said in an interview with AZTV7 in September.
Arizona spans more than 370 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border, and its length presents a string of issues for government officials and Border Patrol, who are trying to control the influx of people attempting to reach U.S. soil, braving hazardous journeys and largely at the mercy of smugglers.
Across southern Arizona, a full range of border woes for Biden
Environmental activists say the construction is eroding soil, endangering animals and restricting movement of wildlife as well as people.
In an article last week, National Geographic warned that the barrier, which is currently over three miles long, will block “critical wildlife corridors for diverse populations of animals, including endangered jaguars and ocelots, along with mountain lions, black bears, coati, mule deer, and javelinas.” It also called the conservation area on which construction is ongoing a “biological wonderland.”
Last month, officials from the Coronado National Forest warned hunters and visitors to avoid the southern border, which they said presented “safety hazards” and “unauthorized armed security personnel.” On social media, critics slammed the wall’s construction as a “waste of resources and money.”
Environmental activists also say the barrier is disrupting natural water systems, and protesters have flocked to the site in recent weeks to try to halt construction. Activists have also scaled the wall in recent weeks, supporting Hobbs’s statement that the containers are climbable and suggesting they may do little to tackle migrant inflows head-on.
Protesters have also used their own bodies to block machinery from operating at the site, halting the construction process, according to reports on social media.
“Ducey’s shipping container wall on the AZ-MX border is worse than I imagined,” Melissa del Bosque, a journalist at Type Investigations, tweeted last month, saying she had gone to see the containers in person.
“Ducey’s plan is to build 10 miles of this before incoming Gov. Hobbs takes office,” she said. “Then AZ is stuck with this $100 million dollar junkyard fence.”
Arizona Gov. Ducey pushes on with shipping container border wall as term ends – The Washington Post