PHOENIX — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is investigating allegations that workers have illegally dumped waste from border wall construction into Mexico, where the metal is being sold on the black market.
Crews on the Arizona side of the border have demolished the metal barriers filled with concrete that once marked the international boundary at various locations.
The barriers are being replaced with the taller bollard panels, which are stacked a short distance north of the border.
Pieces of the older barriers litter the ground, according to the Arizona Republic.
The construction workers “throw the metal our way,” Julio Espinoza told the newspaper. “We ask for it and they toss it our way. We then pick it up and sell it. We don’t have a job because of the coronavirus in Mexico, so that’s where we make money to support our families.”
Espinoza said he and others gather anything to sell to scrap yards in the border city of Sonoyta, located across the border from Lukeville, Arizona.
It’s unclear how many tons of metal and other discarded construction waste workers have dumped across the border into Mexico.
U.S. companies aren’t authorized to dump demolition and construction waste across international boundaries, according to the Republic.
The construction site is located in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in southern Arizona and can be seen from the Mexican side of the border.
A spokesperson for the Army Corps of Engineers said the agency is reviewing “allegations of illegal dumping by one of our contractors” across the border into the Mexican state of Sonora.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is overseeing the ongoing construction of 212 miles of newer physical barriers along Arizona’s border with Mexico, including the 43 miles under construction at Organ Pipe.
The men and women scavenging for metal said the dumping has been going on unchecked for months.
Numerous businesses lining the federal highway on the Mexican side, which runs parallel to the border and the wall construction sites, contained stacks of the demolished vehicle barriers on their property.
Loaded vehicles and semitrucks have regularly passed by on this highway, hauling tons of metal on their way to the scrap yards in Sonoyta.
Construction at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument began in August 2019.
With a scheduled completion date of November, crews already have built the majority of the 43 miles of new bollard fencing along Organ Pipe.
That means the booming black market in Mexico for demolished fencing has already started to wind down.