Arizona state officials say Ducey did not break the law with the containers

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State officials on Tuesday denied any violation of federal law regarding the state’s unauthorized placement of shipping containers to fill gaps along the Arizona-Mexico border wall near Yuma.

Allen Clark, director of the Arizona Division of Emergency Management in the state Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, sent a letter to Bureau of Reclamation officials stating that the placement of the containers by the governor of the Arizona, Doug Ducey, wasn’t breaking any laws.

The response comes about five days after the Bureau of Reclamation sent a letter to state officials saying the state’s unauthorized placement of containers along the border near Yuma violates federal law.

“Your letter falsely claims that Arizona violated the United States,” the letter reads. “The State of Arizona is committed to working with all of our federal partners, including the BOR, to ensure the safety of our state and the protection of public and private lands.”

Ducey’s placement of shipping containers along the border drew criticism from elected officials and conservationists who called the move a “political stunt.”

“Unauthorized location”: Feds say Ducey broke law with shipping containers at border

The letter from the office called for the removal of the containers and a halt to all placement of new containers. The office wanted to avoid interference with recently awarded federal contracts to fill gaps in the border wall near the Morelos Dam near Yuma, the letter said.

“The unauthorized placement of these containers constitutes a violation of federal law and an intrusion against the United States,” the letter states. “This trespass harms federal lands and resources and impedes Reclamation’s ability to fulfill its mission.”

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

Of those containers, 122 were placed on Bureau of Reclamation land and Reclamation “rights of way” within the outer boundaries of the Cocopah Indian Tribe West Reservation, the letter said. Two of the gaps are on Bureau of Reclamation land, according to the letter.

The bureau’s letter was signed Oct. 13 and sent by Jacklynn Gould, lower Colorado basin regional director for the Bureau of Reclamation, to Clark and Tim Roemer, director of the Arizona Department of Homeland Security.

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The state’s response letter, which was sent to Gould, invoked the Constitution, referring to its protection of states and their rights to defend themselves. The letter stated that the specific regulation cited in the bureau’s letter did not prohibit Arizona’s actions.

“We believe it is well within Arizona’s rights to take this action and that is what Governor Ducey did,” Ducey spokesman CJ Karamargin said.

The containers will remain in place until specific construction details are provided, the letter said. Once details are shared, the state will instruct its contractors to “work with federal contractors to maintain the security of the area and that work under the federal contract is not impeded,” according to the letter. .

“The lack of coordination among federal agencies with jurisdiction over the southwest border demonstrates that states like Arizona cannot rely on the federal government to provide security,” the letter said. “To date, Arizona has seen no action from the federal government in this regard and therefore had to take its own action.”

Federal border wall project moves forward

The state’s letter was sent the same day U.S. Customs and Border Protection informed Ducey’s office that the agency planned to initiate the project to close four openings in the border wall near the Morelos Dam near of Yuma.

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

About two weeks later, Ducey announced plans to fill the gaps with shipping containers. Gaps near Yuma, where federal construction is expected to begin in January, are filled with shipping containers.

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

Contracts for the federal initiative, dubbed the Yuma Morelos Dam Project, to fill the four gaps along the border wall have been awarded and design is underway, according to John Mennell, CBP public affairs specialist for the ‘Arizona.

“The gaps will be filled using a combination of temporary mesh fencing and mechanized fencing.

bollard vehicle gates that provide access to the riverside of the barrier,” said Shelly Barnes, environmental planning manager for the U.S. Border Patrol’s infrastructure portfolio, in the written advisory document.

“The project area is located on federal lands that were previously disturbed by other construction activities.”

After:Migrants continue to bypass shipping container border fence amid fresh tribal concerns

Barnes said the goal of the federal project is to direct migrant smuggling to safer locations where migrants can be quickly transported for medical treatment; improving safety and reducing injuries and fatalities while crossing; and to protect existing US Boundary and Water Commission and Bureau of Reclamation infrastructure at the site.

Karamargin dismissed the CBP project as an “extraordinary waste of federal resources” and said there were no plans to remove shipping containers from the border near Yuma.

“Why they would waste resources to implement another temporary solution is incomprehensible,” Karamargin said. “They want us to remove what we’ve called a temporary solution so they can put in place another temporary solution next year.”

Conservationists on Wednesday announced plans to sue Ducey over the planned placement of a new batch of shipping containers near the Huachuca Mountains that would cut off a migration corridor for two of Arizona’s endangered species.

Do you 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.