PHOENIX - The Cocopah Indian Tribe is welcoming the federal government’s call for the state of Arizona to remove a series of double-stacked shipping containers that are filling gaps in the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, saying they are unauthorized and violate U.S. law.
The Bureau of Reclamation sent the letter last week, calling for the existing containers near the desert city of Yuma to be removed and no new ones placed. The letter says the bureau wants to prevent conflicts with two federal contracts already awarded and two more pending to fill two border wall gaps near the Morelos Dam in the Yuma area.
"The unauthorized placement of those containers constitutes a violation of federal law and is a trespass against the United States," the letter states. "That trespass is harming federal lands and resources and impeding Reclamation’s ability to perform its mission."
There was no immediate response on Oct. 17 from Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s office, but it said in the past it would remove the containers if the U.S. government starts construction to fill the gaps.
The tribe complained last month that the state of Arizona acted against its wishes by placing 42 of the double stacks on its land near Yuma to halt illegal border crossings in an area that has become a major entry point for migrants.
"We believe the Bureau is taking the necessary and appropriate action to resolve this issue," the Cocopah tribe said in a statement distributed Monday. "Beyond that, we will continue working side-by-side with local, state and federal law enforcement on securing the border."
Ducey ordered the installation of more than 100 double-stacked containers that were placed over the summer, saying he couldn’t wait for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to award the contracts it had announced for work to fill the gaps in the border wall in the border area.
Migrants nevertheless have continued to avoid the recently erected barriers by going around them, including through the Cocopah Indian Reservation.
The border wall promoted by former President Donald Trump continues to be a potent issue for Republican politicians hoping to show their support for border security.
President Joe Biden halted wall construction on his first day in office, leaving billions of dollars of work unfinished but still under contract. Trump worked at the end of his term to reach more than 450 miles (720 kilometers), nearly a quarter of the border.
The Biden administration has made a few exceptions for small projects at areas deemed unsafe for people to cross, including the gaps in Yuma.
AP writer Elliot Spagat contributed reporting from San Diego.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey says 130 shipping containers were used to close nearly 4,000 feet of previously open border in Yuma. (Doug Ducey)