Feds end legal fight against Arizona’s shipping container border wall

A long row of double-stacked shipping containers temporarily provided a new wall between the...
A long row of double-stacked shipping containers temporarily provided 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)(Ross D. Franklin | AP)
Published: Sep. 21, 2023 at 2:54 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) Two cases involving shipping containers that were used as a makeshift wall at the Arizona-Mexico border have been dismissed, the U.S. Department of Justice announced on Thursday.

“Comprehensive border solutions require collaboration and common sense,” U.S. Attorney Gary Restaino for the District of Arizona said in an emailed news release. “When Arizona unilaterally placed hundreds of shipping containers on tribal and federal land back in 2022, it made the border less safe. The containers have now been removed, and the land has been restored. Thanks to the Department of the Interior (through the Bureau of Reclamation) for supporting the rights of the Cocopah Tribe, and to the Department of Agriculture (through the Forest Service) for its vigilance against environmental degradation.”

In August 2022, then-Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order for state officials to buy shipping containers that would be used to fill gaps in the wall along the border. When ordered to remove the shipping containers from federal land, Ducey sued the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Forest Service, saying the state was legally entitled. The Biden Administration then filed its own lawsuit, alleging the state of Arizona did not have permission to build its own border barrier on federal land.

In December, Ducey’s administration and federal officials reached an agreement. The state would stop installing the containers in the Coronado National Forest and remove the ones already in place in Cochise and Yuma counties. In addition to removing the shipping containers from federal land, the DOJ says the state “completed extensive remediation work on National Forest lands that had been damaged.” Arizona also paid the federal government an additional $2.1 million so the Forest Service could complete additional work along the border, including revegetation. Both cases were then put on hold.

Arizona's Family investigative reporter Morgan Loew discusses the state losing millions of dollars on a plan to build a border barrier out of shipping container

By the time Katie Hobbs was sworn in as governor in January, the shipping containers had largely been dismantled. After spending $95 million in state funds to place the containers, nearly the same amount was spent to remove them. The containers were then made available to government agencies and nonprofits and are expected to go on sale to the general public in October. When all is said and done, the state of Arizona is expected to recoup less than $4 million of the approximately $175 million it spent on the project.

The U.S. determined the lawsuit was no longer necessary because the state resolved the situation by removing the containers, repairing the damage, and paying for additional remediation. Both cases were dismissed on Sept. 15.

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