Editorial: Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s parting gift is a ramshackle, pointless and costly border wall

A wall of shipping containers stacked two high in a valley
Shipping containers are stacked near the U.S.-Mexico border in San Rafael Valley, Ariz., on Dec. 8.
(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

Environmentalists are staging a round-the-clock vigil to stop further construction on a wall of stacked shipping containers along the U.S.-Mexico border in the Coronado National Forest in Arizona. The concertina-wire-topped wall is the multimillion-dollar brainchild of Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who has repeatedly promised to strengthen the border against drug traffickers and crossing migrants.

Perhaps Arizonans envisioned state-of-the-art fencing that keeps out migrants but conforms to the landscape and is mindful of the delicate ecosystem in the area. Instead, the ramshackle container wall looks like the work of a giant toddler, and is a blight on an area that environmentalists say is an international birding mecca. As for stopping unsanctioned border crossings, a video recently posted on Twitter shows a man scaling the wall in less than 30 seconds. And for those who don’t want to climb, there are wide triangular gaps on the ground where containers don’t easily align along the hilly terrain.

Clearly, the nonfunctional wall is a waste of money, a personal trophy for a politician intent on showing the world what he can get away with in the last months of his tenure.


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Construction crews began work in late October and erected a three-mile barrier of double-stacked shipping containers before nearby residents, most in their late 60s and early 70s, began blocking excavators by sitting or lying down in front of the machinery. As more people joined the protest from outlying areas, crews tried to evade the obstruction by working at night. But then protesters started camping out, even as temperatures dipped and it began to snow. They pledge to continue their demonstration until newly elected Gov. Katie Hobbs takes office in early January. Hobbs has promised to stop adding more containers but has not said whether she would take down the wall of more than 900 shipping containers.

She should, though. The wall construction has already damaged an area the U.S. Forest Service calls a unique biological vortex because it’s the intersection of the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts with the Sierra Madre and Rocky mountains. The rich ecological system is home to a dozen species of hummingbirds, the coatimundi and javelina, assorted reptiles and pygmy mice.

The damage is not irreversible if state officials remove the containers and re-contour the washes and streams, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, which plans to sue Ducey’s administration and contractor AshBritt Inc. for violating the Clean Water Act by blocking waterways. The Bureau of Reclamation and the Forest Service have informed Ducey that the construction is trespassing on federal land.

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Ducey, a Republican, has used the border for political posturing with constant promises to increase border security, which he alleges President Biden hasn’t done. After the Arizona Legislature earmarked $564 million to fortify the border this year, Ducey signed a contract with a Florida contractor to build the container wall. However, there was no environmental impact report, and AshBritt is known more for emergency management and cleaning up after disasters. Also, AshBritt has been investigated on accusations of illegal campaign donations and for allegedly cutting corners on its government projects, notably after the 2018 fires in Northern California, according to a KQED investigation.

Contractors are now removing the leftover shipping containers they had planned to use to finish building Ducey’s 10-mile wall of waste, though there are hundreds still remaining — his expensive and pointless parting gift.