Arizona governor tells Biden 'nope' on removing border shipping containers

Yesterday we heard about the “demand” from the Biden administration that Arizona Governor Doug Ducey remove all of the shipping containers he erected to plug several holes in the southern border wall. This was a curious order from the start, involving sections of the wall that won’t have any construction scheduled for some time to come, as well as stretches of the border that exist on tribal lands. So how would Ducey respond with the focus of the media suddenly shifting to his state once again?

We didn’t need to wait very long to find out. The answer was issued through the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs and it could be summed up in a single sentence. “That’s gonna be a hard nope, chief.” 

Arizona has refused the federal government’s demand to take down double-stacked shipping containers it placed to fill gaps in the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, saying it won’t do so until the U.S. moves to construct a permanent barrier instead.

The Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs dug in its heels in an Oct. 18 letter to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, saying “the containers will remain in place until specific details regarding construction are provided.” It was signed by Allen Clark, the department’s director.

A regional spokeswoman for the Bureau of Reclamation did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Arizona’s refusal in the most recent flap between the Biden administration and Republican-led border states over immigration policies.

As already noted, the official response came from the state’s Department of Emergency and Military Affairs. But I’m fairly sure we can all agree that there is no chance whatsoever that they would have thumbed their nose at the White House without Ducey giving a green light to the response. (Assuming he didn’t simply order them to phrase it that way.) The White House could respond by launching a lawsuit to try to bring Ducey into compliance, but that process won’t even make it out of the starting gate before the election.

Keep in mind that Ducey isn’t just saying “no” and leaving that as a permanent answer. The White House is claiming that contracts for new border wall construction in those places have either already been approved or will be “soon.” Ducey is simply saying that he’s perfectly willing to remove the shipping containers… as soon as the construction crews arrive and not a moment sooner.

The portions of the wall that fall on the tribal lands of the Cocopah Indian Reservation are another matter. The tribe has since come out on the side of the Biden administration, asking that the containers be removed because they are on their land. I checked this morning and didn’t see any sort of official response from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but this seems like an issue they should be involved in. If they want to play hardball, Ducey might consider a somewhat more radical option. If the tribe wants the border on their land to be open, Arizona should just build a wall all the way around their reservation and set up immigration checkpoints on the roads leading in and out of it. If they would prefer to be part of Mexico, let them.

The politics behind this sudden game of tit-for-tat are fascinating. Considering how long those containers have already been there and what a total non-issue this is for most people, this almost had to be a political stunt on the part of the Biden administration. The fact that we’re less than three weeks away from the midterms makes that possibility all the more likely, in my opinion. But who was the genius who came up with this scheme? Border security has risen well up the list of voters’ concerns this year, driven by the Biden border crisis. Did Ron Klein or someone else on Biden’s team honestly believe that punching more holes in the wall at this moment in time would be an election-winning strategy in marginal states and districts?

This standoff could potentially set the stage for even more fireworks in the near future. Based on the latest polling, there is a very good chance that a different Republican will be in the Governor’s mansion in Arizona in January. Can you imagine what would happen if Biden tried issuing an order like this to Kari Lake? The response would likely have started off with a return demand that Uncle Joe go perform an anatomically impossible feat on himself.

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