House GOP leader’s bill would bar cities, counties from stopping private border wall construction

House Majority Leader Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror

House Majority Leader Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, sponsored legislation that would bar cities and counties from blocking or restricting private border wall construction, fulfilling a pledge he made last year

House Bill 2084 would bar cities towns or counties from requiring a corporation or nonprofit to obtain a building permit for a wall on or adjacent to the U.S.-Mexico border if certain criteria are met.  

“The bill will create a presumption of permission to build the international boundary wall on state land, and it will allow private property owners who want the wall on their land to do so without city or county interference,” Petersen said in a press release about the bill. 

Last year when Petersen sent out his Tweet stating his intent to pursue this legislation, he mentioned the group We Build the Wall Inc., stating he intended to make sure they could build portions of the border wall in Arizona without issue. 

His tweet came shortly after a town in New Mexico issued a cease-and-desist order to We Build the Wall Inc., stating they had failed to obtain proper permits and that the project was in violation of city ordinances. 

The mayor of Sunland Park, N.M., later withdrew his order and the group continued its work.

We Build the Wall Inc. has not yet begun constructing any barriers in Arizona, nor has it publicly identified any potential sites where it could do so. According to a Phoenix New Times investigation, there are few places in Arizona where it could do so. Most of the land that they could feasibly build on is either federally owned, on the Tohono O’odham reservation or already has some form of border protection in place.

We Build the Wall Inc. is being investigated by the state of Florida for consumer complaints, where it is based.

Petersen’s bill would make it so any construction along Arizona’s borders could go on uninhibited as long as the permit meets all the following criteria:

  • It is for construction of an international boundary wall
  • Construction is adjacent to an international boundary line
  • The land owner has provided written consent 

The bill also adds that any border wall construction on state land is automatically granted. 

Fifteen other Republican lawmakers have all signed on to be co-sponsors of the legislation. 

The We Build the Wall Inc. group which Petersen appears to be trying to help is backed in part by former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and founded by U.S. Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage. 

Last year, Bannon and other Trump supporters gathered in a conference room in a gated community in Sahuarita to speak to members of the Quail Creek Republican Club about their plans with We Build the Wall Inc.

In December, the group hit another impediment to building the wall in Texas. A judge ordered the group to halt construction due to possible harm it would do to a nearby nature preserve

Petersen said in a press release that construction of the border wall must still adhere to federal law, including environmental impact regulations. 

Petersen did not respond to a request for comment from the Arizona Mirror.

Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joins the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. Jerod has also won awards for his documentary films which have covered issues such as religious tolerance and surveillance technology used by police. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.