Arizona’s Republican governor, Doug Ducey, is pushing ahead with building a shipping container wall along the state’s border with Mexico — even as local authorities threaten to arrest him.
Over the summer, Ducey began ordering state agencies to double-fill shipping containers along the border in Yuma to fill a popular crossing point for illegal immigrants before former President Donald Trump’s unfinished 450-mile wall.
And in recent weeks, Ducey has pushed ahead with plans to send 3,000 shipping containers to build a 10-mile wall in Cochise County, despite threats from federal and local authorities.
The containers came within six miles of Santa Cruz County, whose top lawmaker said over the weekend he would arrest anyone trying to continue construction across the county.
“The area where they put the containers is completely on federal land, national forest land,” Sheriff David Hathaway said Fox 10 Phoenix Saturday.
“It’s not public land, it’s not private land, and the federal government has said that [is] illegal activity. So if I saw someone committing an assault, murder, or carjacking on public land in my county, I would also charge that person with a crime.
After spending about $6 million over the summer to build a 3,800-foot temporary wall of 130 shipping containers in 11 days, the work was halted by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which told the state it was being built illegally on federal land.
Ducey, who leaves office next month, sued the feds in October before pushing for a more ambitious wall in the remote San Rafael Valley, which is not used by migrants and is not considered part of it. Trump’s wall.
“Arizona will do what Joe Biden refused to do – protect the border as best we can.” Ducey said in October. “We’re not going back.”
The governor argued that the state has sole or general jurisdiction over the border, saying it has a constitutional right to protect against “imminent threats of criminal and humanitarian crises.”
By last week, cranes had brought nearly 900 metal containers down a dirt road and piled them against criss-crossing steel barriers. The containers are bolted together and metal plates are welded over the gaps.
But gaps of up to three feet were visible in some parts of the wall, and temporary structures could be raised, photographs showed.
Democratic Gov. Kathy Hobbs called the project a waste of resources and said she was still deciding what to do with the containers after she was sworn in on Jan. 5.
“I don’t know how much it will cost to remove the containers and what the cost will be,” Hobbs told KAET on Wednesday.
He previously said the containers could be used to house the homeless and the poor.
While experts say the containers can contaminate water systems and pose a threat to wildlife, the theft has also raised environmental concerns.
“There’s a lot of damage that can be done here between now and early January,” said Russ McSpadden, Southwest Conservation Officer at the Center for Biological Diversity.
A modest group of environmental activists has been on the site in recent days, standing in front of construction machines to slow the expansion of the wall in Cochise County.
The Center for Biological Diversity and other groups have said the construction could endanger endangered or threatened species, and the Cocopah Indian Tribe has complained that Arizona has denied construction permits on a nearby reservation.
Ducey did not immediately return a request for comment Monday.