Former Arizona Republican Governor Doug Ducey’s shipping container fences were largely dismantled during the new Democratic administration, costing tens of millions of dollars in just a few months as they were set up and unloaded. leave back.
The dismantling of giant red, yellow and blue steel boxes is creating a stark image change in affected areas of the southern Arizona landscape as a new governor comes to power and 76 Another million dollars in state funds are spent removing the containers above the $95 million cost to put them there.
Ducey said the containers were located at an opening along the border near the western community of Yuma and across a prairie valley in eastern Arizona’s Cochise County for the purpose of being a temporary measure until authorities Biden conducts permanent construction to secure the border.
Governor Katie Hobbs, who was sworn into office this week, was among those Democrats who called it a political stunt.
Border security was a key issue during Donald Trump’s presidency and remains a focus for many Republicans. Hobbs’ Republican opponent, Kari Lake, campaigned on the promise of sending the National Guard to the border on her first day in office.
The matter was settled in federal court after Ducey sued, demanding that Arizona be recognized as having sole or common jurisdiction over the strip of federal land on which the containers were located. He also argued that Arizona has a right to protect its residents from illegal immigration, which he calls a humanitarian crisis.
An agreement between Ducey’s administration and the federal agencies named in his lawsuit calls for the containers to be unloaded on Wednesday, the day before Hobbs’ inauguration. But the court later extended all deadlines in the case by 30 days to give Hobbs and new Attorney General Kris Mayes time to review the situation.
In Yuma, all 130 containers measuring about 3,800 feet (about 1,160 meters) in length were unloaded on Tuesday.
Russ McSpadden, who regularly visits the site in the remote San Rafael Valley as a southwest conservation advocate for the Center for Biodiversity, said workers continue to dismantle the container wall in Cochise County.
About a third of the 3,000 containers had been erected there, raising concerns about possible harm to the natural water system and local wildlife before the protesters halted. work in early December. Environmentalists say work in the Coronado National Forest is threatening endangered or threatened species such as the Western yellow-billed cuckoo and the Mexican spotted owl.
Yuma Mayor Doug Nicholls said in an interview this week the U.S. government plans permanent construction to begin as early as this month to close the largest gap in the wall in his area, around around the section of the Morelos Dam that immigrants often wade through. But Nicholls said he is worried about a number of other gaps that are not expected to be filled.
“Containers will never be completely,” said Nicholls, a Republican who regularly communicates with the White House and US agencies about the hundreds of asylum seekers arriving in his small area. stop people from crossing, but it’s a way to have better control.” city everyday.
Nicholls said he was in talks with the Hobbs administration about border security and wanted the governor to visit the area.
“I hope she gets here sooner rather than later,” he said. “We still feel like it’s an emergency.”
Under Ducey, Arizona shuttled hundreds of migrants from the Yuma area to the US capital.
Nicholls said regular bus trips to Washington continued despite the change in governor, with the nonprofit Regional Border Medical Center taking on the contract.
He said that without any kind of shelter for migrants, Yuma was not willing to help new arrivals who needed a place to stay and that providing bus trips to Washington allowed many people to travel. free schedule to the East Coast where they can have family.
Unlike caravans of migrant buses sent to East Coast cities from Texas, nonprofit groups in Washington say the buses from Arizona come with detailed passenger and country manifests. their nationality, the coordination of arrival times and the medical staff on each trip. Ducey’s administration sent more than 2,500 migrants in about 70 trips to Washington starting in May.
Ducey’s administration previously estimated each bus ride costs about $80,000 in state funds, which would bring the total cost to date to more than $5.6 million.
A spokesperson for the Regional Border Medical Center in Somerton, Arizona, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how the contract is currently being handled.
Nicholls said the center would be reimbursed for the trips by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.