Months after U.S. Army troops returned to cover areas of the U.S.-Mexico border fence from top to bottom with barbed concertina wire, Southern Arizona leaders have not given up on asking the federal government to take it down.
On May 17, the Bisbee-based Southeastern Arizona Governments Organization became the latest group to condemn the wire when it passed a resolution calling for the removal of all strands placed less than six feet from the ground.
Using language that mirrored a similar resolution passed in February by the Nogales City Council, SEAGO wrote that the body “considers the placement of concertina wire at ground level along the international border wall where innocent victims could be indiscriminately harmed an irresponsible, inhumane and unnecessary use of military tactics and force under the guise of border security enhancement.”
SEAGO’s membership includes representatives from Cochise, Graham, Greenlee, and Santa Cruz counties.
Last November, the Army installed two rows of barbed concertina wire near the top of the border fence in Nogales. In February, troops returned to place additional rows of wire in Nogales and in Naco, Ariz. In some areas, the wires stretched to ground level.
The February action prompted Mayor Arturo Garino to lead the Nogales City Council in passing a resolution that condemned the wire and called for its removal. Later that month, the City of Tucson passed a resolution supporting Nogales’ action and Bisbee, Ariz. passed a resolution calling for the removal of the wire in the Naco area.
With the May resolution, SEAGO echoed the concerns raised by municipalities in February. But it is unclear what effect – if any – the resolutions have had.
“Resolutions by a city council are just statements of preference and sentiment of the council. They don’t have any force of law,” said Ken Strobeck, executive director of the Arizona League of Cities and Towns.
After Nogales passed its resolution on Feb. 6, U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued a news release stating that the location of the concertina wire on the border fence was “outside the City of Nogales Charter and on United States Government property.”
CBP asserted that the additional rows of wire were an effective deterrent to border-crossers and said that “Currently there are no plans to remove the concertina wire.”
Vicki Gaubeca, director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition, said that the resolutions made an important statement.
“I think that what it really is, is sending a message that border communities are tired of being militarized,” she said, later adding: “By issuing a resolution, I think it’s trying to say, ‘Hey, you should be considering our input on this.’”
But ultimately, Strobeck said, “It all depends on who receives the message and what their inclination is.”
And while the wire has drawn ire from many corners, it may also be adding to growing tourist interest in the U.S.-Mexico border fence.
Linda Rushton, who has led the effort to restore a historic trolley to lead tours around Nogales, told the city council at its May 1 meeting that she had taken a recent tour group to the border.
“They really enjoyed themselves,” Rushton said. “And of course the first stop was the fence, we had to see the razor wire.”