(NewsNation) — After Arizona spent more than $100 million in taxpayer dollars putting up shipping containers along the U.S.-Mexico border, the state is now shelling out more than $76 million to remove them, according to a contract with AshBritt, Inc.
Shipping containers removed from the border will be taken to the state prison in Yuma. But agents told NewsNation they are concerned over holes that will be left in the wall. Even though migrant encounters actually increased while the containers were in place, agents said they had an operational advantage responding to large groups with them there, because people were only able to cross along one area of tribal land. Once the containers are removed, agents will once again have to respond to multiple areas with limited manpower.
Meanwhile, the take down of shipping containers that were placed in the Coronado National Forest is set to begin Monday. These will go to the state prison in Tucson.
Construction of the container wall began in Yuma, a popular crossing point, this past August despite objections from conservation groups, the federal government and activists. These containers filled areas left open when Trump’s 450-mile border wall was built.
The Biden administration filed a lawsuit, saying the wall was trespassing on federal land as Gov. Doug Ducey did not have permission to stack the containers there, and the governor agreed to remove them.
Border Patrol agents have seen record-high numbers of crossings in recent months, which they say have overwhelmed them and towns in the area, spurring the shipping containers.
Work on the wall was about on-third of the way completed, but protestors concerned about the environmental impacts helped hold it up in recent days.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack previously said in a statement that the project “is not an effective barrier — it poses safety hazards to both the public and those working in the area and has significantly damaged public land.”
AZ: Governor @DougDucey’s shipping container barriers in Yuma were slated to start coming down today—However we were just informed that the deconstruction is delayed until at least Sunday.
I am told containers will be removed in the Coronado National Forest as early as Monday. pic.twitter.com/Plq1prdUUr
— Ali Bradley (@AliBradleyTV) December 29, 2022
“We need serious solutions at our border, with input from local leaders and communities,” Vilsack said. “Stacking shipping containers is not a productive solution.”
But Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot says the containers were not just a political stunt — they were meant to help impacted farmers after they didn’t see action from the federal government.
For the federal government to build a permanent wall along this line, Wilmot says the containers have to be removed. The problem, though, is that no one knows when that might be.
Materials have been sitting in the area for nearly two years, and there is no movement indicating construction will resume anytime soon. NewsNation reached out to the Department of Justice to see if a timeline is in place on when the wall construction will resume and is waiting to hear back.
Ducey, meanwhile, has long said the shipping containers were temporary, and that he wants the federal government to say when it would fill gaps in the permanent wall.
This all comes as Ducey’s replacement, Democrat Katie Hobbs, who has criticized the shipping container wall, is set to be sworn in as governor next week.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.