A protester surveys several gaps at connection points of the containers along the container border wall. Contractors are instructed to weld metal pieces and or stuff the gaps with razor wire. Some gaps are filled within a few days while other areas are left open for weeks. Photo by Susan Mast

As of Dec. 7, 466 shipping containers, ordered by AZ Gov. Doug Ducey, have been stacked on the border in Cochise County to fill in gaps along the border that were left when Biden halted Trump’s Border Wall. This wall is heading west across the San Raphael Valley towards Santa Cruz County. If the construction crosses the County line, SCC Sheriff David Hathaway vowed last week to arrest the crew working on it for “illegal dumping.” In contrast to Hathaway, Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels supports construction of the container wall. “It will deter crime and stop criminal behavior,” he said recently.

Several lawsuits and notices of intent to sue have been filed by the US Forest Service, the Center for Biological Diversity, Maricopa Audubon, and more against the Gov. of Arizona, the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs and the Arizona Department of Homeland Security. But with a backlog of cases and the holiday season approaching, there is concern that there is little chance of halting construction as long as Ducey is in office.  

On Nov. 29, 15 protesters positioned themselves between the large machinery and the container wall in an effort to stop the construction. The protesters have continued to  block construction equipment, slowing down the work on the wall. The group has grown to over 100 volunteers, who are organizing shifts to provide 24-hour coverage at the building site. Prior to the protest, the workers were averaging 538 ft. per day. Since the protests began, progress on the wall has decreased to an average of  200 ft. per day. 

Contractors hired to build the container border wall begin working through the night in an effort to avoid day time protesters. Contributed Photo

A Timeline of the Border Container Wall

The first US/Mexico border container wall was built in Texas near Eagle Pass at the direction of Gov. Greg Abbott in November 2021. The Texas container wall was built by the Texas National Guard and the Texas Dept. of Public Safety using 20 containers.

In early August 2022, Ducey declares a “state of emergency regarding the increased flow of migrants crossing the border illegally.”

Ducey signed an executive order in August, beginning what he called “an innovative solution” to fill gaps along the border in Yuma, specifically blocking entry of asylum seekers.

The first container wall “gap” in AZ was built in Yuma consisting of 130 containers. Each container was stacked one on top of the other in sets of twos, to create a 22 ft high barrier. 

On  Oct. 14, the US Bureau of Reclamation and the Cocopah tribal nation demanded, in a letter to Ducey’s office, that the containers be removed as the placement of these containers is considered trespassing on federal land and tribal land. In the same letter, the bureau said Customs and Border Protection had already awarded a contract to fill the gaps along where placed the containers. The letter further stated that the state was actively interfering with the process the bureau had underway to fill the gaps – a violation of federal law.

On Oct. 21, Ducey filed a lawsuit against the federal government stating the land the container wall sits on belongs to the state and the state has a right to defend itself from an “invasion” along the border.

On Nov. 23, a response was issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Lawyers for the federal government stated that a lawsuit by Gov. Doug Ducey seeking control of land along the border to place shipping containers is “flawed on so many fronts” that it should not be allowed to proceed. 

On Nov. 29, a group of 15 protesters arrived at the container wall in Cochise County, standing between the large machinery and the container wall in an effort to stop construction of the wall. The protesters drew attention from local and national news and have grown in size by the day. Their efforts halted construction for more than five days.

On Nov. 30, the U.S. Forest Service released a statement warning visitors to stay away from the container wall area in the Coronado National Forest, noting potential safety hazards as well as the presence of unauthorized armed personnel.

On Dec. 2, the container wall was now 6.5 miles east of Santa Cruz County. 

On Dec. 2, Santa Cruz County Sheriff David Hathaway stated publicly he will arrest and charge anyone involved with building the container wall in Santa Cruz County with “dumping on public land.”

On Dec. 5, AshBritt, a private “Emergency Response” remediation group hired to construct the container wall began building around the clock.

On Dec. 7, Sheriff Hathaway visited the container wall site and offered support to the group of protesters.