FILE – Border Patrol agents patrol along a line of shipping containers stacked near the border on Aug. 23, 2022, near Yuma, Ariz. 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 placed along the U.S.-Mexico border near the desert city of Yuma, saying they are unauthorized and violate U.S. law. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)
PHOENIX – A southern Arizona sheriff said protesters have been keeping crews from stacking shipping containers at the U.S.-Mexico border, and he supports the resistance to what he calls “illegal dumping.”
Santa Cruz County Sheriff David Hathaway told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Gaydos and Chad Show on Wednesday that unarmed human rights and conservation activists are working in shifts to slow the work in neighboring Cochise County.
“The protests have been successful,” he said. “They’ve for four days kept the construction from happening.”
Hathaway said the contracted crews, who have armed security personnel, have stopped working during the day and tried to come in at 2 a.m. earlier this week.
“It’s like a Tiananmen Square-type thing,” the sheriff said. “They [protesters] faced off with this large earth-moving equipment that’s digging up the area along the border to create flat spots for the shipping containers.”
At the direction of Gov. Doug Ducey, crews have been installing shipping containers to close off gaps along the Arizona-Mexico border since August. The project started in Yuma before expanding.
Supporters say the work is a matter of security and deters illegal immigration, human smuggling and drug smuggling. Opponents worry about environmental damage and argue that the activity on federal land is illegal.
While some officials in communities along the border have been supportive of the project, Hathaway thinks “there’s all kinds of things wrong” with it.
He said the National Forest Service, the Department of Interior and the Bureau of Reclamation have warned the contractors to stop because what they are doing is not authorized.
Coronado National Forest officials have warned visitors to stay away from the construction area because it could be dangerous.
The work has moved within about 6 miles from Santa Cruz County, which spans the central part of the border south of Tucson and includes Nogales. Hathaway said he’ll take action if the crews enter his jurisdiction.
“My stance has been, since there is no permit for this activity, it’s illegal dumping,” he said. “There’s no permission to do this on public land.
“If they get to Santa Cruz County, I’m going to arrest the construction crews and the security personnel.”
Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.