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Outgoing AZ Gov. Stacks Containers at Border 'to Do the Job that Joe Biden Refuses to Do'

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Hundreds of double-stacked shipping containers topped by razor wire have been placed along the eastern part of Arizona's boundary with Mexico in a bold show of border enforcement by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, even as he prepares to leave office.

Ducey has pressed forward over the objections of the U.S. government, environmentalists, a county sheriff, and the incoming governor who may even remove the already-placed containers in the remote San Rafael Valley. It is an area reportedly not used by migrants in their travels and was not addressed in former President Donald Trump's border wall construction plan.

Recent photographs by The Associated Press show how the containers are placed. The first barrier is a barbwire fence designed for livestock rather than people. The fence shows no height over the usual fencing for cattle. The posts are only between 48 to 54 inches high. The next barrier is made of steel beams strung together that appear to be designed to prevent any type of vehicle from crashing through the wire fence. The containers are then double-stacked and placed within a few feet of the second obstacle. 

Democrat Gov.-elect Katie Hobbs said last week she was "looking at all the options" and hasn't decided what to do about the containers after her Jan. 5. inauguration. She previously suggested the containers be repurposed as affordable housing, an increasingly popular option for homeless and low-income people.

"I don't know how much it will cost to remove the containers and what the cost will be," Hobbs told Phoenix PBS TV station KAET in an interview Wednesday.

Environmental groups say the containers could imperil natural water systems and endanger species. 

"A lot of damage could be done here between now and early January," said Russ McSpadden, a Southwest conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity who has regularly traveled to the site since late October.

Is the Governor's Action Blocking Migrants or 'Illegal Dumping?'

It also appears the Arizona governor may have another hurdle to face. Besides environmental protesters at the site, he may have to also contend with a county sheriff. 

Protesters have largely halted the work in recent days. Santa Cruz County Sheriff David Hathaway agrees with the protesters. Over the weekend, he told KSAZ-TV that Ducey's order to use shipping containers is "illegal dumping." 

The sheriff said he will arrest construction crews and any security guards if they reach his county. 

"The area where they're placing the containers is entirely on federal land, on national forest land," Hathaway told the outlet. "It's not state land, it's not private land, and the federal government has said this {is} illegal activity. So just the way if I saw somebody doing an assault or a homicide or a vehicle theft on public land within my county, I would charge that person with a crime."

The construction is presently located about six miles from Santa Cruz County, directly south of Tucson, KSAZ reported. 

A long row of double-stacked shipping containers provides a new wall between the United States and Mexico in the remote section area of San Rafael Valley, Ariz., Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

'We're Not Backing Down'

Federal agencies have told Arizona the construction on U.S. land is unlawful and ordered it to halt. Ducey responded on Oct. 21 by suing federal officials over their objections, sending the dispute to court.

The outgoing Arizona governor insists the state holds sole or shared jurisdiction over the 60-foot (18.2 meters) strip the containers rest on and has a constitutional right to protect residents from "imminent danger of criminal and humanitarian crises."

"Arizona is going to do the job that Joe Biden refuses to do — secure the border in any way we can," Ducey said when Arizona sued the U.S. government. "We're not backing down."

Ducey is not the first border state governor to fight back against the Biden administration's lack of border enforcement. As CBN News reported in November of 2021, after being vocal about his state's efforts to resume construction on the border wall to slow the record number of migrants illegally flooding into the U.S., Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott began plugging the holes in the border wall with old shipping containers and old buses.  

Abbott, recently reelected to a third term, has pushed to keep building Trump's signature wall on the mostly private land along his state's border with Mexico and has crowdsourced funds to help pay for it. He also has gotten attention for busing migrants to Democrat-led cities far from the southern border, including New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.

Record Number of Migrants Crossing U.S. Southern Border

The governors' action comes amid a record flow of migrants arriving at the border. U.S. border officials have stopped migrants 2.38 million times in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, up 37% from the year before. The annual total surpassed 2 million for the first time in August and is more than twice the highest level during Donald Trump's presidency, in 2019.

In addition, as CBN News reported on Dec. 1, the Biden administration will lose its authority this month to expel migrants under a pandemic-era restriction known as Title 42.  After a long court battle, Title 42 will expire on Dec. 21.  

The news comes amid another massive spike at the border where more than 400,000 migrants have illegally crossed into the U.S. in the past two months.   

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About The Author

Steve Warren is a senior multimedia producer for CBN News. Warren has worked in the news departments of television stations and cable networks across the country. In addition, he also worked as a producer-director in television production and on-air promotion. A Civil War historian, he authored the book The Second Battle of Cabin Creek: Brilliant Victory. It was the companion book to the television documentary titled Last Raid at Cabin Creek currently streaming on Amazon Prime. He holds an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and a B.A. in Communication from the University of