The U.S. is suing Arizona over shipping containers on the border with Mexico (2024)

PHOENIX — The U.S. government sued Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and the state Wednesday over the placement of shipping containers as a barrier on the border with Mexico, saying it is trespassing on federal lands.

The complaint filed in U.S. District Court comes three weeks before the Republican governor steps aside for Democratic Gov.-elect Katie Hobbs, who has said she opposes the construction.

Ducey told U.S. officials earlier this week that Arizona is ready to help remove the containers, which he says were placed as a temporary barrier. But he wants the U.S. government to say when it will fill any remaining gaps in the permanent border wall as it announced it would a year ago.

The U.S. "owes it to Arizonans and all Americans to release a timeline," he wrote in a Tuesday letter, responding to news of the pending federal complaint.

Border security was a focus of Donald Trump's presidency and remains a key issue for Republican politicians.

The Department of Justice complaint asks the court for Arizona to be ordered to halt placement and remove the containers in remote San Rafael Valley in southeastern Cochise County.

The work placing up to 3,000 containers at a cost of $95 million is about a third complete, but protesters concerned about its impact on the environment have held up work in recent days.

"Officials from Reclamation and the Forest Service have notified Arizona that it is trespassing on federal lands," the complaint reads. The action also seeks damages to compensate the United States to fix any damage along the border.

The Justice Department sued on behalf of the Bureau of Reclamation, the Department of Agriculture and the Forest Service it oversees.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement from Washington that the project "is not an effective barrier, it poses safety hazards to both the public and those working in the area and has significantly damaged public land."

"We need serious solutions at our border, with input from local leaders and communities. Stacking shipping containers is not a productive solution," Vilsack said.

The U.S. is suing Arizona over shipping containers on the border with Mexico (1)

Ross D. Franklin / AP



The complaint was applauded by U.S. Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, a Democrat who represents southern Arizona. He called the project an "illegal junkyard border wall."

Russ McSpadden, Southwest conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity, said the federal complaint "should be the beginning of the end of Doug Ducey's lawless assault on protected national forestlands and endangered wildlife."

Ducey wrote federal officials after being informed of their intent to file the complaint and rejected their argument that the containers "present serious public safety risks and environmental harms."

"The number one public safety risk and environmental harm has come from inaction by the federal government to secure our border," Ducey wrote, with the January 2021 halt in the building of Trump's border wall resulting in "an ever-increasing number of migrants who continue to flow into the state."

Ducey's move 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 Trump's presidency, in 2019.

Ducey also rejected the U.S. government's claims that the containers interfere with the ability of federal agencies to carry out their official duties, as well as to complete construction of border infrastructure in some areas.

He said he was encouraged by the Biden administration's earlier announcement it would fill gaps in the wall, but that was a year ago.

"Arizona had no other choice but to address the crisis at its southern border and began erecting a temporary border barrier," the governor wrote.

Hobbs has said she considers the project a political stunt, but hasn't decided what to do about the containers after her Jan. 5. inauguration.

Ducey sued federal officials over their objections to the container wall Oct. 21, insisting that Arizona holds sole or shared jurisdiction over the 60-foot (18.2 meter) strip the containers rest on and has a constitutional right to protect residents from "imminent danger of criminal and humanitarian crises."

Ducey's container wall effort began in late summer in Yuma in western Arizona, a popular crossing point, with scores of asylum-seekers arriving daily and often finding ways to circumvent the new barriers. The containers filled areas left open when Trump's 450-mile (724 km) border wall was built. But remote San Rafael Valley — the latest construction site — is not typically used by migrants and was not contemplated in Trump's wall construction plan.

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The U.S. is suing Arizona over shipping containers on the border with Mexico (2024)


Why is Arizona removing shipping containers? ›

The United States followed with an affirmative lawsuit against various Arizona officials that sought a halt to the project, removal of the shipping containers and damages for trespass, ejectment, interference with easem*nts and other constitutional violations on federal lands.

Why did the US sue Arizona? ›

PHOENIX (AP) — The U.S. government sued Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and the state Wednesday over the placement of shipping containers as a barrier on the border with Mexico, saying it is trespassing on federal lands.

Did Arizona build a shipping crate wall Biden sued and got it taken down? ›

After federal face-off, Arizona to remove shipping container wall from Mexico border. PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey will take down a makeshift wall made of shipping containers at the Mexico border, settling a lawsuit and political tussle with the U.S. government over trespassing on federal lands.

Who is building the border wall in Arizona? ›

In Yuma, The Biden administration resumed border wall construction on four gaps near the Morelos Dam in January. The gaps were previously the site of former Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey's shipping container border barrier.

How many shipping containers go missing each year? ›

According to a World Shipping Council (WSC) report, up to 1,382 shipping containers are lost at sea each year. The figure is based on three year averages calculated over a 12-year period – which represents 80% of the global vessel container capacity.

Why is there a problem with shipping containers? ›

Shipping container delays are the extended waiting times that shippers have to put up with when their cargo is held up in the transport process. They can have various causes, such as port congestion, supply chain disruptions, labour shortages, customs clearance problems or changes in trade policy.

Why is the Biden administration suing Arizona? ›

The Biden administration sued Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) on Wednesday over his construction of a barrier made of double-stacked shipping containers along parts of the U.S.-Mexico border.

How did the U.S. get Arizona from Mexico? ›

The Gadsden Purchase, or Treaty, was an agreement between the United States and Mexico, finalized in 1854, in which the United States agreed to pay Mexico $10 million for a 29,670 square mile portion of Mexico that later became part of Arizona and New Mexico.

How did the U.S. get the bottom of Arizona? ›

The U.S. acquired the region under the terms of the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the 1853 Gadsden Purchase. Arizona became the forty-eighth state in 1912.

What happens to abandoned cargo? ›

In such cases, shipping containers are put up for private or public auction if the shipper does not recover the cargo by paying their debts. Abandoned containers and goods may not be in good condition; therefore, during auctions, no customs authority takes a guarantee of any of the stuff put up for auctions.

Did Home Depot buy a container ship? ›

Home Depot contracted its own container ship as a safeguard. Home Depot has reserved its own ship, bought merchandise on the spot market and flown in power tools as it copes with supply chain headaches.

How much did the container wall cost in Arizona? ›

Footing the bill: Doug Ducey's shipping container barrier will cost Arizona taxpayers over $200M. Former Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey's five-month effort to close gaps along the U.S.-Mexico border with shipping containers will cost Arizona taxpayers more than $200 million.

How did Arizona get its borders? ›

The next step in forming Arizona's borders was when the U.S. Congress introduced a bill in 1862 to separate the Arizona Territory from the New Mexico Territory using the vertical line of longitude near 109 degrees West. President Lincoln signed the Arizona Territory into law in 1863.

Who does Arizona share a border with? ›

Arizona is located in the southwestern quadrant of the conterminous states, bordered by California to the west, Nevada to the northwest, Utah to the north, New Mexico to the east, and the Mexican state of Sonora to the south. The Colorado River forms the boundary with California and Nevada.

How long is the US-Mexico border? ›

It is the tenth-longest border between two countries in the world. The total length of the continental border is 3,145 kilometers (1,954 miles). From the Gulf of Mexico, it follows the course of the Rio Grande (Río Bravo del Norte) to the border crossing at Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, and El Paso, Texas.

Why are there so many abandoned shipping containers? ›

Owners abandon ships when they suffer a financial crisis of paying off the crew onboard. Seafarers suffer as their source of income is stuck, and they will have to face difficulties retrieving it.

What is happening with containers? ›

Port congestion continues to significantly slow the circulatory movement of ships, containers, and other transport assets including chassis—removing capacity, lengthening transit times, and forcing shipping rates much higher.

Is there still a shipping container crisis? ›

The supply chain crisis is long over, but America's importers still have a lot to keep them up at night as they plan for 2024. Two key container shipping “chokepoints” — the Panama Canal and the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait in the Red Sea — are simultaneously under threat.

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