The governor of the US state of Arizona, which shares a border with Mexico, has agreed to remove shipping containers erected as a temporary border barrier in defiance of the federal government.
According to court documents filed on Wednesday, Republican Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has reached an agreement with the Biden administration to remove containers from federal lands, including national forests.
In a lawsuit filed by the federal government last week, the Justice Department described the barrier as “hundreds of stacked double-ton shipping containers damaging federal lands, threatening public safety, and impeding the capacity of agencies” and federal officials, including law enforcement officials. Enforcement, to carry out their official duties. »
Ducey responded by saying that the containers are a temporary measure intended to pressure the federal government into building a permanent wall on the southern border.
Wednesday’s approval to remove the containers comes as the United States grapples with a record number of border crossings for illegal immigrants and asylum seekers.
In fiscal 2022, U.S. Customs and Border Protection documented 2.76 million “enforcement actions” to deport immigrants, up from about 1.96 million a year earlier.
Ducey denounced what he called the Biden administration’s “inaction” in dealing with the influx of immigrants. An October press release from the governor’s office described the shipping container wall, and similar actions, as an exercise in “the state’s right to self-defence.”
But the $95 million plan to put 3,000 shipping containers at the border has drawn criticism from environmental and immigrant rights groups. Not only is the temporary wall ineffective, they argue, it is also damaging to sensitive ecosystems.
In December, the Center for Biological Diversity issued a press release saying the containers were a “brazen political stunt” that would disrupt water flow and threaten many species. The center argued that the temporary wall closed important wildlife corridors for the endangered jaguar and ocelot.
Ducey is expected to step down in January after serving the state for a maximum of two terms in the governor’s office. His successor, Democratic-elect Gov. Katie Hobbs, said she opposes the construction.
Efforts to build the temporary wall are about a third of what they were when the deal was struck Wednesday with the Biden administration. The agreement called for Arizona to remove the containers placed in the remote San Rafael Valley in southeastern Cochise County by January 4 without harming natural resources.
Despite campaign promises that border wall construction would halt during his term, the Biden administration has previously said it will plug holes in the Arizona border wall.
Over a year ago, the federal government ramped up efforts to resume construction of the permanent border barrier. Eventually, after the situation on our borders turned into a full-blown crisis, they decided to act,” said CJ Caramargin, a spokesperson for Doce. “Better late than never. »
The Ducey government has also been locked in a dispute with the Biden administration over the future of Title 42, a controversial policy that has barred many immigrants from seeking asylum on the grounds of fighting COVID-19.
Trump-era policy has been criticized by human rights groups for deporting millions of asylum seekers without due process.
Title 42 was set to expire on December 21, but the US Supreme Court moved on Monday to temporarily suspend the expiration, in response to an appeal from Republican-led states.
Ducey earlier called on the Biden administration to expand Title 42, saying it provides “essential protections.”
The policy stems from a rarely enforced 1944 law that allows the government to reject asylum seekers to protect public health. It was first invoked by the Trump administration in March 2020 at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, though experts have questioned its usefulness as a public health measure.
The Biden administration’s efforts to end the policy have met with a backlash from Republican lawmakers who say repealing it could lead to a surge in asylum seekers at the US border with Mexico.