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Gov. Ducey's shipping container barrier along border toppled just 1 day after completion

Arizona Republic 8/16/2022 José Ignacio Castañeda Perez, Arizona Republic
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One day after construction on Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey's shipping container border barrier was completed, a stack of two shipping containers was found toppled Monday morning near Gadsden, according to a photo shared on Twitter by journalist Claudia Ramos.

“Yesterday governor @DougDucey announced that the first gap in the Yuma border where shipping containers are being used to close the gaps was complete. This is the view this morning of some of those containers,” a translated version of the Twitter post read. 

The photo shows a collapsed 22-foot tall stack of two containers, each weighing about 8,800 pounds, on a neighboring dirt road. The stack is shown partially hanging over the nearby canal southwest of Yuma. 

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On Tuesday, the state began construction on two other sites farther north near the Morelos Dam near Yuma, where 2,000 feet of border has no wall. 

The area near the dam has become a frequent crossing spot, in part because of its lower water levels. The decreased levels allow migrants to walk or wade across the Colorado River and present themselves to Border Patrol agents after crossing through the spacious gaps in the border wall.

Ducey’s office was notified of the fallen containers by Border Patrol at around 12 a.m. Monday, according to Ducey spokesman C.J. Karamargin. The collapse of the containers was most likely caused by people and it’s “unlikely” that it was caused by weather, as some have speculated, Karamargin said. 

“We clearly struck a nerve,” Karamargin said. “Someone apparently doesn't like what we're doing, but we don't know who did it or why.”

The two containers that toppled were the only two that were left un-welded and unbolted in place when the construction crew finished just before dark Sunday evening, according to Karamargin. Construction on the barrier included stacking two containers, welding them shut and topping them with razor wire. 

“These were the two that ended up being either knocked or pulled over,” he said. “Once they're secured our understanding is that something like this will be much more difficult to do.”

It is unclear whether the containers at the first site fell toward Mexico or toward the U.S. portion of the border.

Shipping container barrier: Arizona starts building barriers with shipping containers to fill 3,000 feet of gaps in border wall

Border Patrol advised Ducey’s office not to immediately respond to the site due to heavy activity in the area, according to Karamargin. Construction crews arrived at the site at around 5:30 a.m. and the containers were back in place about an hour later, Karamargin said.

“Our hope is that something like this can't happen again,” Karamargin added. 

Ducey announced the completion of the 1,000 foot shipping container border wall barrier near Gadsden in a Twitter post Sunday. Ducey issued an executive order Friday morning that authorized the state to build border barriers on federal land, citing inaction by the Biden administration.

“Behind the scenes of the 8,800-pound shipping containers fortifying Arizona’s southern border near Yuma. These 9-by-40-feet containers are linked together, welded shut and not budging!,” Ducey said in a tweet Monday. 

Border-area resident criticizes barrier

Barbara Cook has lived about 900 feet away from the Arizona-Mexico border near the Morelos Dam for nine years. When the border wall was constructed under the Trump administration, her home stood only a few hundred feet away from the 30-foot barrier.  

Cook said she’d prefer to have the gaps closed with actual border wall, which is equipped with cameras and other technology, as opposed to the “makeshift” shipping container barrier. 

“Do it right if you're going to do it,” Cook said. “It just seems so crude and reactionary by the governor.”

“It seems to me like it ought to be done properly,” she added. 

U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly (left) speaks on Aug. 10, 2022, to Barbara Cook (right) who lives across the road from the Morelos Dam in Yuma. Cook has lived next to the border wall for nine years and frequently sees migrants, who cross between gaps in the wall, pass by her home. On one occasion, migrants knocked on her door asking for water due to the hot weather. © Antranik Tavitian/The Republic U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly (left) speaks on Aug. 10, 2022, to Barbara Cook (right) who lives across the road from the Morelos Dam in Yuma. Cook has lived next to the border wall for nine years and frequently sees migrants, who cross between gaps in the wall, pass by her home. On one occasion, migrants knocked on her door asking for water due to the hot weather.

Closing gaps: 'It's going to make the agents' jobs easier': Sen. Mark Kelly touts efforts to close border wall gaps

Cook has often seen migrants and asylum seekers near her house as they wait to present themselves to Border Patrol agents. Border Patrol agents have encountered more than 235,000 migrants in the Yuma sector, which covers southwestern Arizona and a small portion of California, so far this fiscal year. 

Construction of the shipping container barrier on the remaining gaps near Cook’s home and the Morelos Dam will finish “in the coming days,” Karamargin said. 

The initial construction site near Gadsden ends at the Cocopah Reservation where the international boundary is only separated by vehicle barriers. A spokesman for the tribe previously told The Arizona Republic that it would not allow shipping containers on the reservation. 

U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly speaks to the media about the barrier gaps at Morelos Dam on Aug. 10, 2022, in Yuma. © Antranik Tavitian/The Republic U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly speaks to the media about the barrier gaps at Morelos Dam on Aug. 10, 2022, in Yuma.

The Cocopah Reservation also stands about six miles away from the border wall gaps near the Morelos Dam. During his recent visit, Kelly and Yuma Sector Border Patrol Chief Chris Clem talked about the likely possibility that migrants and asylum seekers will adapt to the closure of the gaps and present themselves on or near the reservation where there is no border wall. 

State and federal efforts to close gaps

The executive order is Ducey’s latest effort to curb illegal immigration along the Arizona-Mexico border.

Ducey’s announcement came about two weeks after Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas authorized U.S. Customs and Border Protection to close the four gaps in the border wall near the Morelos Dam and two days after U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly toured the area to tout his efforts in helping close the gaps. 

FILE - In this Thursday, June 10, 2021, file photo, a pair of migrant families from Brazil pass through a gap in the border wall to reach the United States after crossing from Mexico to Yuma, Ariz., to seek asylum. Border officials got the go-ahead Thursday, July 28, 2022, to fill four remaining gaps in the U.S.-Mexico wall near the southern Arizona community of Yuma for safety reasons. (AP Photo/Eugene Garcia, File) © Eugene Garcia, AP FILE - In this Thursday, June 10, 2021, file photo, a pair of migrant families from Brazil pass through a gap in the border wall to reach the United States after crossing from Mexico to Yuma, Ariz., to seek asylum. Border officials got the go-ahead Thursday, July 28, 2022, to fill four remaining gaps in the U.S.-Mexico wall near the southern Arizona community of Yuma for safety reasons. (AP Photo/Eugene Garcia, File)

It’s unclear whether the state will construct the shipping container barrier along the same gaps that the federal government authorized to close. 

Asylum seeker transportation: Arizona has spent millions to bus more than 1,000 asylum seekers to Washington, D.C., with much more to come

Ducey’s office has previously acknowledged that the construction on federal land could prompt action from the Biden administration. 

In June, Ducey signed Arizona’s state budget into law, allocating $335 million to construct and maintain a border fence, $53.4 million for deputy sheriff compensation and $30 million for the “local prosecution and imprisonment of individuals charged with drug trafficking, human smuggling, illegal immigration, and other border-related crimes.”

A gap in the border wall at the Morelos Dam on Aug. 10, 2022, in Yuma. © Antranik Tavitian/The Republic A gap in the border wall at the Morelos Dam on Aug. 10, 2022, in Yuma.

The legislation also allocated $15 million for transportation of people seeking asylum and $10 million for emergency health care and testing for migrants along the Arizona-Mexico border.

Contact the reporter at jcastaneda1@arizonarepublic.com or connect with him on Twitter @joseicastaneda

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Gov. Ducey's shipping container barrier along border toppled just 1 day after completion

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