PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona has rejected the federal government’s demand to knock down double-stack shipping containers it had placed to fill holes in the wall along the US-Mexico border, saying it won’t do so until the US proceeds to build a permanent barrier instead.
The Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs dug into its heels in an Oct. 18 letter to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, stating that “the containers will remain in place until specific construction details are provided.” It was signed by Allen Clark, the director of the department.
A regional spokeswoman for the Bureau of Reclamation did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Arizona’s refusal in the most recent flap between the Biden administration and Republican-led border states over immigration policy.
The federal agency told Arizona officials in a letter last week that the containers were not allowed and violated U.S. law. The agency also demanded that no new containers be placed, as it wanted to avoid conflict with two federal contracts that have already been awarded and two more pending to fill the gaps in the border wall at the Morelos Dam in the Yuma area, Arizona, to fill.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey ordered installation of more than 100 double-stack containers placed over the summer, and said he couldn’t wait for U.S. Customs and Border Protection to award the contracts it announced for the work.
Migrants have continued to evade the recently erected barriers by going around them, including through the Cocopah Indian Reservation. The Cocopah Indian Tribe has complained that Arizona acted against its will by placing 42 of the double piles on its land.
The border wall promoted by former President Donald Trump remains a powerful problem for Republican politicians hoping to show their support for border security.
President Joe Biden stopped building walls on his first day in office, leaving billions of dollars of work unfinished but still under contract. The Biden administration has made a few exceptions for small projects in areas deemed unsafe for people to cross, including the holes near Yuma.
The Center for Biological Diversity raised another objection to the shipping containers on Wednesday and filed a letter of intent to sue Ducey’s administration over what the environmental group said there are plans to place more shipping containers along the border. The group said the move will impede a critical jaguar and ocelot migration corridor.
Ducey’s office said it could not comment because it had not received an official message from the center.
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