Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey agreed to remove the shipping containers on federal lands currently acting as a wall along the state’s southern border.
A lawsuit from the Biden administration last week claimed that the makeshift wall had been erected “unlawfully and without authority,” thereby “damaging the United States.” The government of Arizona agreed to cease activity on National Forest System lands for “any purpose relating to installing shipping containers along the international border,” according to a court document filed on Wednesday. Ducey’s administration will “remove all previously installed shipping containers and associated equipment, materials, vehicles, and other objects” by January 4, according to the document.
Ducey, who is scheduled to depart office next month, issued an executive order in August which allowed 3,820 feet of the previously open border to be closed with 130 shipping containers within 11 days. The initiative expanded to other parts of the border, with 6,680 feet of containers stacked two-high throughout Cochise County by early November.
The lawsuit from the Biden administration came after Ducey refused to comply with a demand to remove the containers from federal land in Yuma County. Arizona officials told the Biden administration that the state would not remove the containers until a permanent barrier is constructed.
A section of the barrier toppled in August; construction crews initially said that the containers were knocked over by the wind, while Ducey staffers attributed the event to foul play.
Ducey spokesman C.J. Karamargin said in a statement that the barrier was a “stopgap measure” meant to reduce illegal border crossings until the Biden administration offered a permanent solution, details of which are reportedly forthcoming. “Finally, after the situation on our border has turned into a full-blown crisis, they’ve decided to act,” he said in a statement. “Better late than never. We’re working with the federal government to ensure they can begin construction of this barrier with the urgency this problem demands.”
The announcement comes shortly after Chief Justice John Roberts blocked the end of Title 42, a provision that gives commanders-in-chief the power to shut down immigration as an emergency action to keep communicable diseases out of the United States. Border cities such as El Paso had braced for an influx of migrants.
As many as 4.9 million migrants have entered the United States under the Biden administration, according to data from the Federation for American Immigration Reform. Some 66 individuals from the terror watchlist crossed the border between October 2021 and July 2022; in the previous five years combined, only 30 aliens from the terror watchlist had been apprehended.
Another report from the Center for Immigration Studies found a 71% decline in removals for migrants who had been arrested for a crime under the Biden administration, as well as a substantial decrease in the removal of convicted felons. “Immigration enforcement in the interior of the country has dropped dramatically under President Biden’s policies,” Center for Immigration Studies Director of Policy Studies Jessica Vaughan wrote. “These policies have exempted nearly all but the most serious criminal aliens from arrest and removal and have imposed cumbersome new procedures and paperwork for ICE officers to complete cases.”
Dillon Burroughs contributed to this report.