Tribe: Arizona built border barrier against their will

The Cocopah tribe charged Friday that the Arizona state government acted against their wishes by stacking shipping containers on their land and then building a wall to prevent illegal migrants from crossing the border with Mexico.

According to descendants of one of the original tribes that inhabited the land that is now the United States, it was determined that the state placed 42 double-stacked containers on their land near Yuma, said Michael Fila, a local emergency management official.

The tribe wrote to state officials Tuesday to inform them of its findings and concerns. Fila said the containers block half of a two-lane highway, closing off a "vital evacuation route."

Containers pose other security concerns, including if they are dropped, Fila wrote. Two containers overturned last month during construction, for reasons that are unclear.

"The integrity of the road itself was later damaged by the heavy machinery used to place the containers" and created the danger of rescuers getting stuck, Fila said in an email shared with The Associated Press.

The tribe told state officials during a meeting Aug. 17 that it did not want the barriers and is awaiting a response to its findings, said Jonathan Athens, a spokesman for Cocopah. "We had made it clear before that we didn't want the containers on our land," he said.

The tribe's findings are a potential setback for Gov. Doug Ducey, who said last week the barriers were "a huge step forward in securing our border." Despite his claims, the barriers have so far failed to make a significant dent in illegal crossings in an area where hundreds of people enter the United States daily.

The Republican governor's spokesman, CJ Karamargin, said Friday that he was aware of the tribe's letter but had no comment at this time.

The state installed 130 double-stack containers in the Yuma area last month in an attempt to close gaps in the wall built during Donald Trump's presidency and left behind when he left office last year. The administration of President Joe Biden said in July that he would plug the loopholes, but Ducey said he couldn't wait and hired AshBritt Inc. to install the containers in five areas.


Associated Press writer Bob Christie in Phoenix contributed to this report