Under the duress of a federal lawsuit, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has agreed to dismantle two long sections of border wall the state built out of stacked shipping containers capped by concertina wire.
Agreeing to an aggressive border-obliteration deadline, Arizona will yank all the containers away by Jan. 4, and without damaging natural resources as it does.
The announcement comes as the Supreme Court evaluates the legality of the Trump-era Title 42, which lets agents block asylum claims at the border, purportedly to limit the spread of contagious diseases amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally set to expire Dec 21 under a court order, any eventual removal of the policy is expected to spark a major influx of migrants.
Earlier this month, the U.S Interior and Agriculture departments filed suit to stop the construction of the makeshift wall, seeking “a declaration that Arizona’s use and occupancy of lands owned by the United States without the required permits or other authorization constitutes unlawful trespasses.”
The container wall is at the southern fringe of U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation lands and easements. The wall was also challenged by environmentalists. Started in August, the project had filled about a third of the length of border that was planned.
In its filing, the government said the “hundreds of double-stacked, multi-ton shipping containers…damage federal lands, threaten public safety, and impede the ability of federal agencies and officials, including law enforcement personnel, to perform their official duties.”
Ducey’s office portrayed the development as a victory, suggesting that he’d been assured the federal government would itself soon begin closing the gaps in the border wall. “Finally, after the situation on our border has turned into a full blown crisis, they’ve decided to act,” his spokesman said. “Better late than never.”
That version was challenged by the Center for Biological Diversity’s Russ McSpadden, who said the federal government hasn’t said it will build a wall in sections where the containers are today.
According to the Arizona Republic, Arizona has spent more than $80 million to procure 1,167 cargo containers and stack them along remote stretches of the frontier in Yuma and Cochise counties. The state is now compelled to spend more money taking the wall down — and McSpadden said the state is also obligated to repair the damage it did to federal land.
Ducey is in the waning weeks of his tenure, as Democratic Governor-Elect Katie Hobbs waits in the wings. Her November opponent, Kari Lake, is awaiting a decision by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson after a two-day trial in which the Lake campaign sought to prove that major election problems in the county were created “intentionally” and “did actually affect the election.”
We’ll have to see what Arizona will do with all those shipping containers now. Lake suggests they could be repurposed as housing. If and when Title 42 vanishes, it’s easy to imagine they’ll be filled with Latin Americans.