Arizona began moving in shipping containers to close a 1,000-foot gap in the border wall near the southern Arizona farming community of Yuma on Friday, with officials saying they were acting to stop migrants after repeated, unfulfilled promises from the Biden administration to block off the area.
‘Arizona has had enough,’ tweeted Doug Ducey, the Republican governor of the state, who is up for re-election in November.
‘We can’t wait any longer. The Biden administration’s lack of urgency on border security is a dereliction of duty.’
The Yuma sector of the border, 126 miles long, has seen an almost 300 percent increase in ‘border encounters’ – migrants arrested by Customs and Border Protection agents – this year, compared to the same time frame in 2021.
The spike is the highest recorded by any of the nine sectors: two in California, two in Arizona, one in New Mexico and Texas, and four solely in Texas.
Yuma has seen the third highest total number of ‘encounters’ this year – beaten only by Del Rio and the Rio Grande sectors, both in Texas.
Ducey said his state had tried to convince the White House to do more, but was frustrated.
‘For the last two years, Arizona has made every attempt to work with Washington to address the crisis on our border,’ he continued.
‘Time and time again we’ve stepped in to clean up their mess.
‘Arizonans can’t wait any longer for the federal government to deliver on their delayed promises.’
The move by Arizona comes without explicit permission on federal land, with state contractors starting to move in 60-foot-long shipping containers, stacking two of the 9-foot-tall containers on top of each other early Friday.
They plan to complete the job within days, and the containers will be topped with four feet of razor wire, said Katie Ratlief, deputy chief of staff for the Republican governor, Doug Ducey.
The state plans to fill three gaps in the border wall constructed during former President Donald Trump’s tenure in the coming weeks, totaling 3,000 feet.
‘The federal government has committed to doing this, but we cannot wait for their action,’ Ratlief said.
John Mennell, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, said the agency had just learned of Arizona’s action and ‘is not prepared to comment at this time.’
The move is the latest pushback by a Republican-led border state to what they contend is inaction by Joe Biden on immigration.
It was immediately prompted by the announcement of the end of the ‘Remain in Mexico’ program that was announced this week, Ducey’s top lawyer, Annie Foster said.
That program required asylum-seekers to return to Mexico and await a court date, although thousands of migrants who made it into the country were not returned.
Arizona has been sending two to three buses of asylum seekers from Yuma to Washington over the last three months to make a political statement as the number of arriving migrants overwhelmed local resources.
Ducey began the program in May and has said everyone on the bus trips are going voluntarily to the capital with intended final destinations in East Coast cities.
Texas also is busing migrants to the East, and the mayors of New York and Washington sought federal help last month to deal with the influx.
Their request brought a gleeful response from Republicans, who say the pleas are evidence the U.S. is in an immigration crisis.
As of August 11, the state of Arizona had sent 1,425 asylum seekers to Washington, according to the governor’s office.
Ducey is using $6 million for the project out of $335 million the Legislature authorized in June to construct virtual or physical fencing along the border with Mexico.
Ducey, who co-chairs the Republican Governors Association, and other Republican politicians have tapped into border security as a potent political foil in an election year.
The Biden Administration announced late last month that it had authorized completion of the Trump-funded U.S.-Mexico border wall near Yuma. The area has become one of the busiest corridors for illegal crossings, and they planned to fill in four wide gaps.
Arizona officials said they did not know why there was a discrepancy between the three gaps they identified and the federal government’s plans.
Biden had pledged during his campaign to cease all future wall construction, but the administration later agreed to some barriers, citing safety.
The Department of Homeland Security planned work to close four wide gaps in the wall near Yuma to better protect migrants who can slip down a slope or drown walking through a low section of the Colorado River.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas authorized completion of the project near the Morelos Dam in July, a move officials said reflected the administration’s ‘priority to deploy modern, effective border measures and also improving safety and security along the Southwest Border.’
Arizona points to a rising number of migrants coming into the state and accompanying drug smuggling as a major reason for their action.
Agents stopped migrants more than 160,000 times from January through June in the Yuma sector – nearly quadruple from the same period last year.
Despite the federal promise to fill in the gaps, Arizona officials said no action had been taken to actually close them.
The federal government apparently put the project out to bid this week, but that may takes weeks or months.
Foster, Ducey’s top lawyer, said the governor decided to act even if the federal government later objects.
‘At this point, we are closing that gap and we’ll figure out the consequences as we move forward,’ Foster said at a briefing for reporters.
‘But bottom line is that the federal government has a duty to protect the states – that’s part of the contract, that’s part of the constitution.
‘They failed to do that.’