Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s shipping container wall along the U.S.-Mexico border has garnered attention and criticism, but a local sheriff says the makeshift barrier has a positive impact for the community.
Ducey’s border wall project in Arizona’s Cochise County has received attention this week after environmental protests brought construction to a halt, but this is not the first shipping container wall Ducey has built in the state.
Over the summer, Ducey launched a wall-building project in Yuma County in the far western part of the state. Using 130 shipping containers topped with razor wire, Ducey filled 3,820 feet of previously open border. The project is reported to have cost about $6 million.
“The containers were placed in the areas needed due to agricultural concerns impacting local farmers, and to help stop the environmental impacts we were experiencing along the river corridor,” Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot told The Daily Signal in an email Tuesday.
“Our local farmers and local constituents asked for help directly (in person) to Secretary [of Homeland Security Alejandro] Mayorkas, Commissioner [of Customs and Border Protection Chris] Magnus, and Sen. [Mark] Kelly,” Wilmot said, going on to describe the negative effect illegal immigration was having on farmers in Yuma County.
All [Mayorkas, Magnus, and Kelly] were informed of the need to secure the river corridor due to immigrants trespassing into the fields causing crops being trampled on, crops being contaminated by litter, and defecation in the fields… there was nothing done by any of them to mitigate these impacts. This left farmers with the inability to harvest the crops for food safety concerns, unfortunately resulting in monetary losses to local farmers – with no way to be reimbursed.
We were also experiencing large amounts of clothing, litter, and pharmaceuticals being left along the lower river corridor. This creates an environmental impact on the wildlife and recreation that used to frequent the area.
The Daily Signal reached out to the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, and Kelly for comment but did not receive a response.
Ducey’s shipping container wall has “moved the mass immigration crisis to a more controlled environment for the federal agents to apprehend,” Wilmot said. “It has also helped lessen the environmental impact that farmers were dealing with, as well as the natural environment along the river.”
More than 370 miles of Arizona land borders Mexico. Former President Donald Trump built sections of border wall in Arizona, but gaps remain.
“Five wide open gaps in the border wall near Yuma neighborhoods and businesses are now closed off,” Ducey said in an Aug. 24 statement. “In just 11 days, Arizona did the job the federal government has failed to do — and we showed them just how quickly and efficiently the border can be made more secure – if you want to.”
Ducey has made the makeshift southern border wall in Yuma and Cochise Counties one of his final missions before he hands the reins over to Democrat Gov.-elect Katie Hobbs on Jan. 5.
“When you look at the amount of fentanyl that’s coming across the border, and the fact that fentanyl overdoses are a leading cause of death among young people in some of our border counties, as well as a growing problem nationally… of course Gov. Ducey is not going to sit by and do nothing while this problem continues to metastasize,” C.J. Karamargin, Ducey’s director of communications, told The Daily Signal during a call Tuesday.
“Governor Ducey takes his responsibility to protect Arizona very seriously, and that is the heart of this issue,” Karamargin said.
Hobbs has not said whether she will remove the shipping containers when she takes over Arizona’s governorship in less than a month. During an interview with Arizona PBS, Hobbs said the shipping containers are “not effective as a barrier,” adding that she thinks Ducey’s actions are a “political stunt that’s not really solving a problem.”
When asked if Hobbs should remove the shipping containers, Wilmot said, “Local farmers are asking that [the containers] be kept in place until the federal government replaces them with adequate infrastructure to prevent what was being experienced prior to the containers being deployed.”
It will likely “cost about $70 million” in “Arizona taxpayer dollars” to remove the shipping containers, according to Ali Bradley, NewsNation’s border correspondent.
In Cochise County, Ducey’s administration has completed over three miles of the latest shipping container border wall that is intended to be 10 miles long when completed. The project, expected to cost around $95 million, will use 3,000 shipping containers.
After completion of the wall in Yuma, the Bureau of Reclamation sent a letter to Arizona state officials saying the Yuma border wall was illegally constructed on federal land and must be taken down. But instead of removing the shipping containers, Ducey filed a lawsuit against the federal government.
In October, Ducey asked the Arizona District Court to determine who has “jurisdiction over land within the State of Arizona,” and to consider the “state’s interests in protecting itself.”
Border Patrol reports over 2 million encounters with illegal aliens at the border in fiscal year 2022, which ended Sept. 30. In October, Border Patrol encountered 230,678 illegal aliens at the southern border, an increase of more than 65,000 from last October.
Border Patrol in the Yuma Sector does not report a significant change in the numbers of illegal alien apprehended in the Yuma Sector before or after the Ducey administration filled in the wall’s gaps.
During the first full week of July, about a month before the completion of the wall, Border Patrol Yuma Sector reported 5,800 migrants arrested. During the last full week of November, Yuma’s Border Patrol reported 5,900 migrant arrests.
The wall is expected to help funnel illegal migrants to specific crossing locations, however, making apprehensions easier.
“It is incumbent on the Governor to be engaged from a geographical, [or] local, perspective on what is needed on the border for the that area,” Wilmot said. “In other words, what’s needed in Yuma County may not be the answer for any other county in the state, nor should the governor make decisions from a political or ideological perspective, or based on a special interest group’s agenda.”
“Public safety and public health should always be the priority for the citizens of the community and the state,” the sheriff said. “Agriculture in Yuma County provides over 90% of the winter vegetables for the United States, so when crops are damaged and the farmland is environmentally impacted, it is a concern that must be addressed.”
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