The Biden administration on Wednesday sued the state of Arizona over its construction of a makeshift border wall using shipping containers and razor wire in order to prevent the flow of illegal immigrants — with the administration claiming the state is trespassing on federal lands.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, says that the installation of multi-ton shipping containers, welded shut and topped with razor wire, ‘damage[s] federal lands, threaten[s] public safety, and impede[s] the ability of federal agencies and officials, including law enforcement personnel, to perform their official duties.’
The lawsuit is the latest back-and-forth between Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and the Biden administration over Ducey’s decision earlier this year to fill gaps in the border wall with shipping containers. The move was taken in response to the ongoing crisis at the border which saw more than 2.3 million migrant encounters along the border in FY 2022.
‘Arizona has had enough,’ Ducey said in a statement at the time. ‘We can’t wait any longer.’
The construction consisted of 60 double-stacked shipping containers, welded shut and topped with four feet of razor wire. His office said that it is 22 feet tall and weighs nearly 9,000 lbs.
The metal behemoth has drawn complaints from activists about the impact on the environment, as well as continued humanitarian concerns about walls that stop migrants entering deeper into U.S. territory.
The federal government, via the Bureau of Reclamation has issued warnings to Arizona, claiming that the containers were within the vicinity of the Morelos Dam and also on land that is part of the Cocopah Indian Tribe’s West Reservation. It also said that the placement interferes with a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) project to fill the gaps, and calls on Arizona to stop further construction and assist in removing the containers.
Arizona hit back at what it called a ‘lack of coordination’ from federal agencies and said that states like Arizona ‘cannot rely on the federal government to ensure its security.’
In October, Ducey’s administration filed a lawsuit over the matter, seeking to affirm that it has a right to defend itself.
‘Our border communities are overwhelmed by illegal activity as a result of the Biden administration’s failure to secure the southern border,’ Ducey said in a statement. ‘Arizona is taking action to protest on behalf of our citizens. With this lawsuit, we’re pushing back against efforts by federal bureaucrats to reverse the progress we’ve made.’
‘The safety and security of Arizona and its citizens must not be ignored. Arizona is going to do the job that Joe Biden refuses to do — secure the border in any way we can. We’re not backing down,’ he said.
But now the administration has pushed back with a lawsuit, continuing its claim that Arizona is trespassing on federal lands, and seeking compensation from the state.
‘Not only has Arizona refused to halt its trespasses and remove the shipping containers from federal lands, but it has indicated that it will continue to trespass on federal lands and install additional shipping containers,’ the lawsuit says. ‘As a result, the United States brings this action to obtain appropriate relief for Arizona’s unlawful continuing trespasses and invasions of the United States’ paramount sovereign property rights and interests under the U.S. Constitution.’
In a response to the lawsuit, Ducey’s office calls the claims ‘unfounded’ and ‘inaccurate’ and says that Arizona ‘stands ready to cooperate with the federal government on construction of a border wall and always has been.’
In that letter, the administration’s general counsel says that the ‘number one public safety risk and environmental harm has come from inaction by the federal government to secure our border.’
It also pushes back on the claim that the barriers interfere with federal agencies, saying that CBP officers have praised the installation of the barrier — and challenges the claim that it prevents the installation of a federal border barrier.
‘Arizona’s border barrier was always intended to be a temporary solution until the federal government erects a permanent solution,’ the letter says.
The battle is the latest clash between Republican border states and the Biden administration over how to handle the crisis at the border. Both Arizona and Texas have drawn the ire of the administration by moving forward with their own border barriers, as well as busing migrants to liberal cities including Washington D.C.
However, the battle between Arizona and the administration could soon be coming to an end. Democratic Gov.-elect Katie Hobbs will take over from Ducey in January, and she has said her administration will remove the makeshift barriers along the border.
Fox News’ William Mears contributed to this report.