Feds Sue to Force Arizona to Remove Makeshift Border Wall

‘The number one public safety risk and environmental harm has come from inaction by the federal government to secure our border,’ Governor Ducey says.

AP/Ross D. Franklin
A long row of double-stacked shipping containers provide a new wall between the United States and Mexico in the remote section area of San Rafael Valley, Arizona. AP/Ross D. Franklin

Even as the Department of Homeland Security begins work to shore up border barriers elsewhere, the Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against Governor Ducey and the state of Arizona over his makeshift shipping container barrier.

According to the complaint, the federal government is asking the court to force “Arizona to remove all shipping containers installed on lands” under control of the federal government “to minimize further harms to the United States.”

The federal government is claiming that Arizona, by installing shipping containers along the border, trespassed on federal lands to erect the barriers. The department wants the shipping containers removed and damages and expenses be paid by the state.

They allege that the shipping containers are interfering with federal duties along the border, including some sections within the Cocopah Indian Reservation. The complaint said Arizona, in failing to obtain permission from federal authorities, has violated Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.

The lawsuit comes months after Mr. Ducey signed an executive order in August authorizing construction of the barrier with the aim of filling gaps in existing barriers along the border.

The governor unsuccessfully sued the leadership of the Forest Service, Agriculture Department, and Bureau of Reclamation in October for permission to continue building the structure.

“Five wide open gaps in the border wall near Yuma neighborhoods and businesses are now closed off,” Mr. Ducey said of his project in an August statement.

“In just 11 days, Arizona did the job the federal government has failed to do — and we showed them just how quickly and efficiently the border can be made more secure – if you want to,” he added.

The Justice department’s lawsuit comes only days after President Biden’s homeland security department announced it would be filling in gaps in the barriers along the southwest border.

According to officials at Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’s office, the efforts focus on California, Texas, and Arizona and will involve closing gaps between incomplete sections of the barrier between San Diego and El Paso.

Alongside filling in the gaps, the department will be finishing landmark facilities used by border patrol, installing drainage systems, adding safety features, and repairing other areas.

The original plan for Mr. Ducey’s makeshift barrier in Arizona involved around 3,000 shipping containers spanning about 10 miles at a cost of $95 million. The containers cover just a fraction of the 450 miles of open border left when Mr. Biden abandoned President Trump’s border wall construction.

Though the wall is stacked around 17 feet, or two shipping containers high, with barbed wire on top, critics argue that it’s not an effective barrier, citing visible gaps at the base of the wall large enough to fit through. Videos also circulated of people scaling the wall.

Among those critics is the governor-elect of Arizona, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who has been a vocal opponent of the wall and takes office in January.

“I want to use our state’s resources not for things that are political stunts but that will actually solve the problems,” she told KJZZ radio earlier this week. “It’s not land that’s our land to put things on,” she added. “The containers aren’t working. There’s many pictures of people climbing over them.”

Mr. Ducey has largely rejected criticism from people like Ms. Hobbs and past claims from the federal government that the shipping containers interfered with federal law enforcement activities. 

“Arizona had no other choice but to address the crisis at its southern border and began erecting a temporary border barrier,” Mr. Ducey wrote after being informed that the federal government intended to file a complaint.

“The number one public safety risk and environmental harm has come from inaction by the federal government to secure our border,” he added.

The dispute erupts not only as the Biden Administration looks to begin filling in gaps in the barriers at the southern border but also as record numbers of migrants are arriving there.

In the past year, the number of migrants stopped at the border rose 37 percent from the previous year to 2.38 million from 1.73 million the previous year.

Mr. Ducey appears to be hoping that the current surge in migration plus the state’s construction of the shipping container barrier will spur some sort of concrete action from the federal government.

In a letter to federal officials Tuesday, he wrote that the federal government “owes it to Arizonans and all Americans to release a timeline” for securing the southern border.

The New York Sun

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