Arizona Agrees to Remove Shipping Containers from US-Mexico Border

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s office told the federal government yesterday that he will remove the makeshift shipping container barrier he constructed along the US-Mexico border, both in the Coronado National Forest in Cochise County and near Yuma, Arizona. The agreement was filed as a stipulation in federal court.


The agreement came one week to the day after the federal government filed a lawsuit against Governor Ducey and the State of Arizona for encroaching on federal lands and dumping hundreds of double-stacked shipping containers into the wilderness along the US-Mexico border. 

In a stipulation filed in federal court Wednesday, December 21, the State of Arizona agreed to remove shipping containers from the Coronado National Forest in Cochise, County Arizona.

Since the project began in late October, workers have feverishly placed hundreds of shipping containers along the Arizona/Sonora border in Southern Cochise County, forming a precarious barrier and a gash through an otherwise pristine stretch of oak grassland. 

According to the Complaint filed by the federal government December 14, the shipping containers “damage federal lands, threaten public safety, and impede the ability of federal agencies and officials, including law enforcement personnel, to perform their official duties.”

Under the terms of the new stipulation, the shipping containers Ducey installed near Yuma, Arizona will be removed by January 4, 2023, however no clear timeline was established for removal of the barrier in Cochise County.

The stipulation set a clear timeline for removal of the shipping containers near Yuma, Arizona, yet no clear timeline for the removal of those in the Coronado National Forest in Cochise, County Arizona.

Governor Ducey’s term in office ends in early January when his successor Katie Hobbs, a Democrat who has pledged to remove the shipping containers, takes office. It is unclear whether the responsibility for removal of the Cochise County shipping container barriers will fall on the incoming administration.

The combined projects in Yuma and Cochise County carry budgets of over $108 million, although it’s unclear how much of that money has already been spent given the interruption of the project in Cochise County. Both contracts were awarded to AshBritt, a private disaster management company with a history of illegally donating funds to a pro-Trump super PAC.

It is unclear if AshBritt will also be awarded the contract for removal of the containers, but since they are already under contract for work on the project, it’s likely they’ll be the company tasked with removal as well. If so, the removal operation could be a way to continue siphoning public funds to the company.

In late November, a group of activists and locals began blockading the project in Cochise County, placing their bodies between the heavy machinery and the wilderness area facing imminent destruction. By standing in the way, blockaders managed to impede further placement of shipping containers for weeks until the Governor’s office announced that it would end the project. 

Following the successful blockade, workers began hauling hundreds of shipping containers from a staging area to the Arizona State Prison Complex in Southern Tucson. There, the containers were stacked along the outer perimeter of the prison’s concertina-topped fences.

Update 12/23/22: In a press release sent on Thursday evening, activists and community members who have been camping out at the makeshift shipping container wall to blockade its construction shared their thoughts on the agreement between the United States Department of Justice and the State of Arizona:

“Without the persistence and dedication of the Border Wall Resistance volunteers, the damage done in the Coronado National Forest would have been significantly greater. Due to our efforts, only 3.6 miles of the planned 10 miles of wall were able to be completed.”

They went on to say that “this legal agreement vindicates our claims that this wall was illegal, destructive and needed to be stopped immediately.”


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