Shipping container border wall cases involving federal government and Arizona dismissed

Sep 21, 2023, 8:00 PM

A border wall constructed of shipping containers and topped with concertina wire, built on federal ...

A border wall constructed of shipping containers and topped with concertina wire, built on federal land by Republican governor Doug Ducey, stands along the US-Mexico border in the Coronado National Forest near Hereford, Arizona on December 20, 2022. (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

(Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Two cases between Arizona and federal officials involving shipping containers at the U.S.-Mexico border were voluntarily dismissed, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday.

In the first case, former Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey brought a declaratory action against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Forest Service. Ducey claimed the state was legally entitled to install shipping containers at the border.

The U.S. followed with a lawsuit against various Arizona officials that sought to stop the project, removal of the shipping containers and damages for trespass, ejectment, interference with easements and other constitutional violations on federal lands.

When the lawsuit was filed, the state agreed to stop the installation project and remove all these shipping containers from federal lands.

As a result, both cases were stayed pending further resolution between the parties, the Justice Department said.

During the stay, Arizona removed all shipping containers from United States’ properties and completed extensive remediation work on National Forest Lands. The land had been damaged by that installation and subsequent removal of shipping containers.

The state also paid the U.S. an additional $2.1 million dollars under a collection agreement to allow the U.S. Forest Service to complete additional remediation and revegetation work along the border.

Why was the federal lawsuit dismissed?

Since Arizona resolved its trespass and remediated or paid to remediate the damage to federal property, the U.S. determined the lawsuit was no longer necessary and voluntarily dismissed the litigation.

“We worked to ensure that U.S. property rights and agency missions were respected especially since the placement of the shipping containers by the State of Arizona abutted on our international border with Mexico,” Todd Kim, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD), said in a press release.

“We appreciate the collective support of U.S. Attorney Restaino and his office, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture in seeing this situation through, including remediating the land where the containers were placed.”

Gary Restaino, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, explained comprehensive border solutions require collaboration and common sense.

“When Arizona unilaterally placed hundreds of shipping containers on tribal and federal land back in 2022, it made the border less safe,” Restaino said in the press release.

“The containers have now been removed and the land restored. Thanks to the Department of the Interior (through the Bureau of Reclamation) for supporting the rights of the Cocopah Tribe, and to the Department of Agriculture (through the Forest Service) for its vigilance against environmental degradation.”

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Shipping container border wall cases involving federal government and Arizona dismissed