The federal government sues Arizona for placing containers on the border with Mexico

The Federal Government Sues Arizona For Placing Containers On The Border With Mexico

Phoenix – The United States government on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and the state for placing cargo containers as a barrier on the border with Mexico, claiming they are trespassing on federal land.

The lawsuit filed in federal court was filed three weeks before the Republican governor is due to step down and be replaced by Democrat Katie Hobbs, who has voiced her opposition to the work.

Ducey told federal officials a few days ago that Arizona is willing to help remove the containers, which he said were put up as a temporary barrier. But she wants the federal government to announce when they will fill the remaining holes in the permanent border wall, just as he had announced a year ago.

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The United States “owes it to the residents of Arizona and to all Americans to release a date,” he wrote in a letter Tuesday, responding to news of the impending federal lawsuit.

Border security was a central part of Donald Trump’s presidency and continues to be one of the top issues for Republican politicians.

The lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice asks the court to order Arizona to stop placing and removing the containers located in the San Rafael Valley, a remote region located on the eastern edge of Cochise County. The work to place up to 3,000 containers at a cost of about $95 million is one-third advanced, but opponents concerned about its impact on the environment have hindered the work in recent days.

“Arizona has been notified by Reclamation and Forest Service officials that it is trespassing on federal lands,” the lawsuit states. The complaint also asks for compensation from the federal government to repair any damage caused at the border.

The Department of Justice brought the lawsuit on behalf of the Bureau of Reclamation, the Department of Agriculture and the Forest Service it oversees.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack declared from Washington that the project “is not an effective barrier, poses security risks to both the public and those who work in the area, and has substantially damaged public land.”

“We need serious solutions at our border, with the contribution of local leaders and communities. Stacking cargo containers is not a productive solution,” Vilsack asserted.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, who represents southern Arizona, applauded the lawsuit, calling the project an “illegal junkyard border wall.”

Russ McSpadden, an activist with the Center for Biological Diversity, said the federal lawsuit “should be the beginning of the end of Doug Ducey’s unlawful assault on protected national forests and endangered wildlife.”

Ducey wrote to federal officials after being informed of his intent to file the lawsuit, rejecting their contention that the containers “pose serious risks to public safety and damage to the environment.”

“The primary risk to public safety and environmental damage stems from the federal government’s failure to protect our border,” Ducey wrote, adding that Trump’s January 2021 suspension of border wall work resulted in “a steady increase in the number of migrants who continue to arrive in the state.”

Ducey made the decision to place the containers in anticipation of the arrival of an unprecedented number of migrants across the border. Border Patrol elements have made 2.38 million migrant apprehensions in the fiscal year that ended on September 30, an increase of 37% over the previous year. The annual total topped 2 million for the first time in August and is more than double the highest level recorded under the Trump administration, reached in 2019.

Ducey also rejected claims by the federal government that the containers interfere with the ability of federal agencies to carry out their official duties, as well as to complete construction of border infrastructure in certain locations.

He said he was excited by the previous announcement by the Joe Biden administration that it would fill the gaps in the wall, but that was a year ago.

“Arizona had no choice but to address the crisis at its southern border and begin erecting a temporary border barrier,” the governor wrote.

Hobbs has said she thinks the project is a political stunt, but has not decided what she will do about the containers after she is inaugurated on January 5.

Ducey sued federal authorities over their rejection of the container wall on October 21, insisting that Arizona has sole or joint jurisdiction over the 60-foot strip in which the containers are located and that it has a constitutional right to protect residents of the “imminent danger of criminal and humanitarian crises.”

Ducey began placing containers this summer in Yuma, western Arizona, a busy border entry point where dozens of asylum seekers arrived every day and found their way around the new barriers. The containers covered areas that were left open during the construction of the 450-mile border wall during the Trump administration. But migrants rarely cross through the remote San Rafael Valley, which was not included in Trump’s wall construction plan.

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