Arizona agrees to tear down makeshift border wall, ending standoff with Washington

State officials say Biden administration has agreed to fill large gaps in existing wall

Dec. 22 (UPI) -- Arizona has agreed to dismantle a makeshift border wall that Gov. Doug Ducey ordered built on the southern border with Mexico -- an effort that began in August and put the state at serious odds with the federal government.

Ducey's monthslong standoff with Washington came to an end one week after the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the governor to quash the ongoing construction project on the grounds the state was trespassing on federal land.


Arizona failed to acquire building permits and never sought permission from the U.S. government to build the structure, the Biden administration argued in legal filings seeking to force Ducey to end the operation.

Hundreds of double-stacked shipping containers now demarcate Arizona's southern border for several miles. It was not clear when work crews would begin hauling off the containers that weigh about 9,000 pounds apiece.


The agreement settles months of tensions that have also included clashes with local law enforcement officials and protests by environmental activists.

Construction on the makeshift wall began in August.

That's when Ducey -- a two-term Republican set to leave office in January -- ordered work crews to install the containers near Yuma and along stretches of the Coronado National Forest, which angered Washington.

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The ambitious project was designed to fulfill the vision of President Donald Trump who left office while the mission to complete the wall was largely unfinished.

In July, the Biden administration told Arizona that it would fill in the remaining gaps, but that project never got off the ground.

The next month, Ducey indicated that the state would act on its own after President Joe Biden formally ended Trump's "Remain in Mexico" policy. Soon, construction crews began setting up the first 1,000 feet of crude metal containers topped by razor wire.

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"We can't wait any longer," Ducey said at the time. "The Biden administration's lack of urgency on border security is a dereliction of duty."

In October, the Biden administration asked Ducey to call off the effort, but the state responded by filing a lawsuit, arguing that it was compelled to plug holes in the border because Washington had not provided federal protections.


On Wednesday, Ducey's spokesman C.J. Karamargin said the deal was reached after the U.S. government agreed to install permanent barriers that will fill gaps in the existing border wall.

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"We've said from the very beginning that the shipping container program is temporary," he said. "We'll happily remove them if the federal government gets serious and does what they're supposed to do, which is secure the border. We now have indication that they're moving closer, that they're more serious."

Notably, the agreement took place while thousands of migrants were crowded at the U.S.-Mexico border just as the Supreme Court considers whether to keep in place Title 42, a controversial Trump-era policy that was meant to ramp up deportations.

Construction of the makeshift wall has cost the state at least $82 million, according to Ducey's office. But climate advocates are also beginning to weigh the project's cost to the environment as heavy duty vehicles and machinery have bulldozed trees, waterways, and vegetation in across the region.

The Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit group that seeks federal protections for endangered species, also announced its intention to sue the Arizona governor's office over possible violations of the Clean Water Act at a construction site in the Coronado National Forest.


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