Costs, criticisms mount over temporary border barrier along Arizona-Mexico border

While Ducey’s office told us the project cost $6 million, the total contract expense is $13 million.
Updated: Aug. 17, 2022 at 9:45 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — When the plan to install shipping containers as a temporary solution to gaps in the border fence along the Arizona-Mexico border was announced, the price tag was approximately $6 million. But the contract for the barriers shows the final cost could be even more. Gov. Doug Ducey announced the plan to barricade gaps of the border wall near Yuma on Aug. 12. He said “Arizona has had enough” waiting on the federal government to act. In late July, the Biden Administration announced it would be filling in gaps along the border near Yuma, but Ducey said the state has waited long enough. “Arizonans can’t wait any longer for the federal government to deliver on their delayed promises,” Ducey said in a statement.

“We are done waiting for the federal government to take action,” Tim Roemer, director for the Arizona Department of Homeland Security, said. The state signed the contract with Florida-based AshBritt in May, but despite being classified as an emergency contract, work did not begin on the gaps until mid-August. By Sunday night, part of the newly-constructed barrier had fallen, as captured in a photo from Univision Reporter Claudia Ramos on the border. Ramos said she was told by contractors that the barriers were blown over from severe weather, but the Governor’s Office claims the containers were tipped over by humans.

“It tells us how little thought went into this,” Andy Gordon, a former counselor for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said. Gordon, who was with DHS during the Obama Administration working on the border fence project, said the move by Arizona was a political stunt. He contends creating an effective barrier between the U.S. and Mexico is more complicated than dropping shipping containers into place. “The reason, most of the barrier at the border is a fence is so you can see, through it, because you want to see what’s going on, on the other side,” Gordon said. “Tactically, it actually probably makes this situation more dangerous rather than less dangerous.”

The contract with the state and AshBritt shows each 40-foot shipping container costs $6,750, not including installation. Arizona’s Family found the same-sized shipping containers for sale online for half that price, most around $3,000. While Ducey’s office told us the project cost $6 million, the total contract expense is $13 million.

Gordon said if Arizona’s temporary plan conflicts with the feds’ plan to seal the gaps in the border, it could make things worse. “I expect the federal government to demand the removal and make the state pay for it. So the 13 million bucks is not the end of the expenditure,” Gordon said. Arizona’s Family found that the cost for the total contract could also buy 130,000 new textbooks or 3.4 million school lunches for Arizona students.