Even a bug can’t cross the US-Mexico border through Gov. Doug Ducey’s fence on protected public land – the only animals that can cross now are humans who can manage to climb on crates, say advocates ‘environment.
“Ducey’s junky parody of the Berlin Wall would be laughable if it weren’t so damaging to wildlife,” said Russ McSpadden, Southwest conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity.
Arizona continues to build the border fence on federal lands without following regulations, federal or otherwise.
When asked if the state had gone through some kind of permitting process or followed any environmental regulations, Ducey spokesman CJ Karamargin simply said “no.”
“Governor. Ducey has no intention of stopping or slowing down the mission to fill gaps in the border fence,” he said.
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The state began installing what is expected to be around 3,000 shipping containers at the US-Mexico border in the Coronado National Forest in October, at an estimated cost of around $95 million, despite a standoff with the government American about the installation of border barriers on federal lands. without authorization. The Republican governor went to court challenging the federal government’s jurisdiction over part of the territory.
As of Nov. 20, emergency management contractor AshBritt had installed more than 300 rows of double-stacked shipping crates, more than two miles long, for the state.
The state’s goal is to fill in the gaps that were left when President Joe Biden called for a halt to construction of the border wall, Karamargin said.
“The state’s goal from the beginning was to make it harder for people to enter the United States illegally,” he said. And according to Yuma Mayor Douglas Nicholls, Yuma Legislators, and Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot, “He achieves that goal. We expect this to have the same effect in Cochise County.
The number of encounters with migrants in Yuma rose about 5% to almost 25,500 the month after Ducey placed the shipping crates and remained stable in October.
Despite the increase in the number of undocumented migrants entering the country in Yuma, local and federal government officials in the area said having a barrier gave them more order in dealing with people.
“Fast and Random”
The state previously hired AshBritt to set up 3,800 feet of shipping crates over 11 days in Yuma, including near Morelos Dam, where many undocumented migrants passed through Arizona last year.
The bollard barrier built by the federal government during the Trump administration had four-inch gaps between the posts. Although this stopped the connectivity and migration of larger mammals, say conservationists, smaller animals could still move through it. With Arizona’s new barrier, that’s not the case.
“We’ve now lost connectivity for insects and reptiles,” McSpadden said. “Snakes and lizards down to the smallest beetle where they prop up these containers just can’t get through. Only humans can overcome this.
McSpadden has documented the construction of border walls throughout the Trump administration and says he has never seen construction like what is happening in Coronado in Cochise County, an area he describes as ” some of the best meadows in Arizona” and the Madrean Oak Forest.
“It’s just very quick and random,” he said. “They don’t really follow any security protocols. There are no sprayers to trap the dirt. So they just fill the air with particles. It’s just a crazy building scene. … They have no legal authority to do anything.
Contractor AshBritt did not respond to a request for comment on what protocols it was following, if any.
In a Nov. 22 federal court filing in a state-federal standoff over the shipping crate barrier, McSpadden said work crews had:
- razed and destroyed many oak trees;
- built across a number of desert streams;
- bulldozing turning points in the forest;
- leveled and widened the size of the border wall road;
- cleared a staging area they created, leaving behind a large bare area of soft dust that kicks up with every gust of wind;
- left trees that had been damaged and destroyed in large piles;
- began to create new roads along the border, where the existing road has moved away from the border due to terrain contours and complex geological issues, with the aim of continuing to install shipping containers;
- and recently created a new staging area filled with heavy machinery, restrooms and shipping containers near the border in the grasslands and forest.
Ducey says the US can’t stop him
The Coronado is US Forest Service land, and the state has no jurisdiction to build on it. In addition to that, there’s a 60-foot strip of federal land running along most of Arizona’s border with Mexico called the Roosevelt Reservation, which means Arizona has no jurisdiction to build nearly n anywhere on the border.
President Theodore Roosevelt created the Roosevelt Reservation, which also runs along most of the border in California and New Mexico, in 1907 to keep this land “free from obstruction as a protection against the smuggling of goods between the United States and Mexico”.
The state standoff began when federal officials asked the state to remove the Yuma containers, citing “unauthorized placement” on federal property and on Cocopah Indian Tribe land.
Additionally, Coronado Forest Supervisor Kerwin Dewberry sent a letter to the state saying it must obtain pre-approval through the federal regulatory approval process that governs national forest lands before placing barriers in Coronado, which the state has not done.
In response to the government’s request, the state filed a lawsuit against federal agencies claiming, among other things, that Roosevelt had no legal right to declare all land along the border to be government property. federal.
A state complaint in the case also says an increase in the number of undocumented migrants at the border has “stretched national resources, which is felt most acutely by border communities.” Federal law enforcement at the Arizona border encountered migrants 571,720 times in fiscal year 2022, according to federal data, an increase of 83% from last year, but not the state record.
While the Yuma sector saw a record number of arrests in 2022, Border Patrol in the Tucson sector and across the US-Mexico border in Arizona as a whole had previously seen a higher number of arrests. for many years, with the highest for the state being over 725,000 arrests in the year 2000.
Besides the question of who has jurisdiction over Arizona’s southern border, Ducey’s other legal argument is that the state has the constitutional power to protect Arizona’s borders.
The Center for Biological Diversity asked to join the lawsuit as defendants, saying the construction was illegal because Ducey failed to do the required environmental assessments.
In response, the state argues that the center should not be allowed to join because if Ducey wins his argument, then the property where the containers mount was never federal land in the first place and therefore no federal law on the environment has been violated.
But at least as far as Coronado is concerned, land beyond the Roosevelt reservation is US Forest Service land and therefore still subject to federal regulation. Other environmental protections still apply that the state does not contemplate, such as those enforced by the Arizona Department of Game and Fisheries.
The Center for Biological Diversity filed a counter argument Nov. 22 to be included as a defendant in the lawsuit, saying Ducey’s lawsuit is politically motivated and makes “extraordinary claims of state control and authority. on federal border lands between Arizona and Mexico”.
Given the pace of barrier construction in Coronado, the state will likely end before the governorship passes to Katie Hobbs, a Democrat who has criticized the barrier.
“As governor, my number one priority will be keeping Arizonans safe,” Hobbs said in a statement. “That means real solutions to our border crisis – including increased funding for our sheriffs and law enforcement agencies, increased oversight and pressure on our federal government to give us the tools. Arizonans don’t need more political stunts – they need results.