Migrants continue to bypass shipping container border barrier amid new tribal concerns

TRANSLATION: “The container barrier installed by Arizona Governor @DougDucey appears to be doing little to slow down migrants. #Yuma”/Twitter

By José Ignacio Castañeda Perez || The Arizona Republic

Cocopah tribal officials raised concerns Friday about Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s shipping container barrier being built on their land.

Hundreds of migrants continue to bypass the barrier, despite its closure of five gaps along the Arizona-Mexico border near Yuma.

A portion of the barrier near Gadsden was built on a road that intersects the Cocopah community, where shipping containers are not allowed, officials said. Ducey’s office did not consult with Cocopah officials before putting the containers on the road, Cocopah officials said Friday.

The containers have blocked one lane of the two-lane road that is a “vital evacuation route” for residents in the event that the county bridge fails, which has happened in the past, according to Michael Fila, emergency manager with the tribe’s office of emergency management. 

Migrants cross the border into Yuma on Aug. 23, 2022, despite shipping container wall.

Cocopah officials previously had met with representatives from Ducey’s office on Aug. 17 to tell them that they did not want shipping containers on Cocopah land. Cocopah officials have not asked the office to take the containers down, but have expressed their concern with them on their land. 

“We would not put a Cocopah Reservation trespass sign where our property wouldn’t be,” Fila said Friday in a telephone interview. “From the first box that was put down it was in the shadow of that sign.”

Fila sent an Aug. 29 letter to Ducey’s office expressing the concerns about the barrier. 

“This is a highly trafficked road used by first responders in response to emergencies and if there was a fail to the integrity of the shipping containers it would put them in harm’s way,” Fila wrote in regard to the previous incident of the stack of unsecured containers falling.  

The Cocopah community is on either side of the road where the barrier was built and Cocopah officials say the placement was “inadvertent” given that there are various maps that show different boundaries of the reservation. 

Cocopah officials conducted a survey following the placement of the containers and verified that the reservation flanked the road that they were placed on. 

“The integrity of the road itself has subsequently been damaged by the heavy machinery that was used in placing the shipping containers and creating first responders to potentially become stuck,” Fila wrote in the emailed letter. 

When asked about the concerns, Ducey spokesperson C.J. Karamargin said in an email that the office is reviewing the matter. 

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