Crews have placed hundreds of containers covered in barbed wire along Arizona’s remote eastern border with Mexico, in a bold display of border protection by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey even as he prepares to leave office, AP reported.
Until protesters slowed, then largely halted work in recent days, Ducey pushed ahead despite objections from the US government, environmentalists and the incoming governor who sees it as a waste of resources.
Democratic Governor-elect Katie Hobbs declared last week that she was “looking at all options” and that she had not yet decided what to do with the containers after he was inaugurated on January 5. She previously suggested that the containers be repurposed as affordable housing, an increasingly popular option for the homeless and low-income.
“I don’t know how much it will cost to remove the containers or what the cost will be,” Hobbs told Phoenix PBS’s KAET television channel in an interview Wednesday.
Federal government affirms that the construction of the container wall is illegal
Federal agencies have communicated to Arizona that construction on US soil is illegal and have ordered a halt. Ducey responded on October 21 by suing federal officials over his objections, sending the dispute to court.
Environmental groups claim the containers could endanger natural water systems and species.
“Between here and early January, there could be a lot of damage,” said Russ McSpadden, a southwestern conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity, who has been a regular visitor since late October.
Ducey insists that Arizona has exclusive or joint jurisdiction over the 60-foot strip on which the containers rest and has a constitutional right to protect residents from “imminent danger of criminal and humanitarian crises.”
“Arizona will do the job that Joe Biden refuses to do: secure the border any way we can,” Ducey said when Arizona sued the US government. “We are not going to back down.”
Federal agencies want Ducey’s lawsuit dismissed.
Border security was a focus of Donald Trump’s presidency and continues to be a potent issue for Republican politicians.
Hobbs’ Republican rival, Kari Lake, campaigned on a promise to send the National Guard to the border on her first day in office. Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, recently re-elected to a third term, has pushed for continued construction of Trump’s iconic wall on mostly private land along his state’s border with Mexico and has raised funds to help pay it.
Santa Cruz sheriff said he won’t allow the containers in his county
Sheriff David Hathaway said he is ready to take a position on the Santa Cruz county line.
If anyone tries to bring the containers into his jurisdiction, Hathaway said, they will be arrested for trespassing. “I’m just going to make sure they don’t come into our county.”
The authority’s warning in the Nogales area comes as contractors build a 10-mile border barrier in a southwestern region of Cochise County, just a few miles from the Santa Cruz county line.