Feds say Ducey broke law with shipping containers at border

The state’s unauthorized placement of shipping containers to fill gaps along the Arizona-Mexico border wall near Yuma by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey violates federal law, according to a letter sent to state officials by the Bureau of Reclamation.

The letter calls for the removal of the current containers and for any placement of new containers to stop.

The bureau wanted to avoid interference with a recently awarded federal contract to close two border wall gaps near the Morelos Damnear Yuma, the letter states.

US Customs and Border Protection was awarded a contract to close the two gaps, which are on Bureau of Reclamation land, and anticipates awarding another contract for the closure of two more gaps in the area, the letter states.

Migrants cross the border into Yuma on Aug.  23, 2022, despite the shipping container wall.

Migrants cross the border into Yuma on Aug. 23, 2022, despite the shipping container wall.

In July, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas authorized CBP to close the four gaps in the border wall near the Morelos Dam to address operational impacts and immediate life and safety risks.

“The unauthorized placement of those containers constitutes a violation of federal law and is a trespass against the United States,” the letter states. “That trespass is harming federal lands and resources and impeding Reclamation’s ability to perform its mission.”

The letter was signed Thursday and sent by Jacklynn Gould, regional director of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Lower Colorado Basin, to Allen Clark, director of the Arizona Division of Emergency Management, and Tim Roemer, director of the Arizona Department of Homeland Security.

Ducey spokesperson CJ Karamargin said state officials are waiting to see a contract before acting to remove any containers and that the office is reviewing the letter. In the past, Ducey’s office has said it would “happily” remove the shipping containers if and when the federal government decides to begin construction on wall gaps.

“We’ve been hearing for months now that (the Biden Administration) was planning to do something and they’ve done nothing,” Karamargin said. “So while they’re talking about it and writing letters, we’re actually taking action.”

On Aug. 12, Ducey issued an executive order that authorized the state to build border barriers on federal land, citing inaction by the Biden administration. Eleven days later, 3,820 feet of gaps were filled in with 130 shipping containers.

Yuma shipping containers: Do shipping containers work at the border? Governor says yes. Critics say they’re ‘meaningless’

122 of those containers were placed on Bureau of Reclamation land and on Reclamation “rights-of-way” within the exterior boundaries of the Cocopah Indian Tribe’s West Reservation, the letter states.

Despite the barrier’s closure of five gaps along the border wall, hundreds of migrants continue to bypass the nearly $13 million barrier every day.

US Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., who represents the area near Yuma where the containers were placed, said, “(The letter) addresses the political arrogance of Ducey in just presuming that he has this all-powerful control over everything. There was never any real outreach, none, or any notification, and there’s a process to go through.”

Grijalva dismissed the placement of the containers as a political stunt to draw attention before November’s midterm elections and compared the move to Ducey’s decision to begin bushing migrants from Arizona to Washington, DC

In September, Cocopah officials raised concerns about shipping containers being “inadvertently” placed on their land near Gadsden. A portion of the barrier near Gadsden was built on a road that intersects the Cocopah community, where shipping containers are not allowed, tribal officials said.

Cocopah officials said Ducey’s office did not consult with them before putting the containers on the road.

Cocopah concerns: Migrants continue to bypass shipping container border barrier amid new tribal concerns

The containers blocked one lane of the two-lane road that is a “vital evacuation route” for residents in the event that the county bridge fails, which has happened in the past, Cocopah officials said.

Cocopah officials have not asked the office to take down the containers but have expressed concern about them on their land. Tribal officials met with representatives from Ducey’s office Aug. 17 to tell them that they did not want shipping containers on Cocopah land.

A new batch of several dozen shipping containers was recently posted in a temporary staging area near Whetstone in southern Arizona. The cluster of shipping containers stands directly off of State Route 90 near the intersection of State Route 82.

No determination has yet been made about where the new containers will go, according to Ducey’s office.

In September, shipping containers were also stored in the Arizona National Guard Armory in Nogales for potential use to close gaps along the border wall.

Have a news tip or story idea about the border and its communities? Contact the reporter at [email protected] or connect with him on Twitter @joseicastaneda

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Feds say AZ Gov. Ducey broke law with shipping containers at border

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