A group that raised more than $20 million in a GoFundMe campaign has completed its own private border wall that the group claims to be on private land.
We Build the Wall, the name of the group, was founded by a triple amputee Air Force veteran named Brian Kolfage.
“I joined the Air Force in February 2001, right before 9-11,” Kolfage says. “And on the three-year anniversary, our base came under attack. A rocket landed right next to me and instantly blew off my legs, my right hand, and my thumb. I took a lot of damage to my body and that is basically what set my life and set the path of where I am today.”
Donations to the online GoFundMe initiative to fund the private construction of the border wall between the United States and Mexico helped create the half mile stretch of steel bollard barrier in Sunland Park, New Mexico, near El Paso, Texas. According to Kolfage, the section of the wall cost an estimated $7.5 million.
“We’ve been promised border security for the last 30 years,” Kolfage says. “I just felt like politicians are playing games, and I see both sides of the story. I know there’s an issue going on. Our politicians are holding both sides in the middle for their own personal gain, and I just felt like, maybe, I could have a difference.”
Kolfage explained how him and his foundation were able to build the wall, which took about 20 days to construct.
“It might be a 30-foot strip of land that the wall sits on,” Kolfage says. “We own it. We bought it from that land owner. It’s no different than putting up a fence on my yard. It’s your property, you can do what you want. As long as it’s within city ordinances, no one can tell you ‘no.’ It’s that easy. And that’s what people don’t realize, is how easy it is to get this done.”
However, on June 11, We Build The Wall is facing some issues with the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC).
The IBWC issued the following statement:
"A private organization, We Build the Wall, built a gate on federal land in Sunland Park, N.M., near El Paso, Texas, without authority, and then locked the gate closed on June 6, 2019. The private gate blocks a levee road owned by the U.S. Government. After repeated requests to unlock and open the private gate, the United States Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission (USIBWC), accompanied by two uniformed law enforcement officers from the Dona Ana County Sheriff's Office, removed the private lock, opened the gate, and locked the gate open pending further discussions with We Build the Wall. The gate was also opened so that USIBWC employees can conduct maintenance and operations at American Dam. The USIBWC did not authorize the construction of the private gate on federal property as announced on We Build the Wall's Twitter page. The USIBWC is not charged with securing other fences or gates as reported by We Build the Wall. The international border fences are not on USIBWC property. The USIBWC did not open any other gates in the El Paso area as erroneously reported. Other gates and the border fence are controlled by other federal agencies. An incomplete application permit from We Build the Wall was submitted to the USIBWC on Sunday, June 2. The USIBWC responded to the initial permit request on June 6 with questions and requests for additional information. The USIBWC has not yet received a response from the private organization regarding the Agency's initial response to their permit request.
The USIBWC is concerned about the safety and security of our employees and the infrastructure at the American Dam, which is next to the privately-constructed gate. Despite USIBWC requests to locate the gate further from American Dam, the private gate was constructed in a way that may channel undocumented immigrants into the American Dam area. When the proper documentation is received for the permit, USIBWC will continue to process the permit application."
According to Kolfage, We Build the Wall’s lawyers are handling the situation.
“We are working with them to resolve the scheduling,” Kolfage texted E.W. Scripps national correspondent Tomas Hoppough. “They were speaking to people who they thought were with our group but they were not, and caused mass confusion. Our lawyers are handling it and it should be back under our control soon.”
Hoppough texted Kolfage asking him if he built on federal land.
“Yes, with their authorization,” Kolfage responds. “They helped us design the gate, they were involved every step. Fourteen members from IBWC approved the gate as designed. They asked for a $300,000 electronic gate but we said no and gave them a Jurassic park gate. Our lawyers have and still are working with them. We hope to have it resolved in a day.”
Hoppough spoke with Kolfage in his home of Destin, Florida.
“I’m sure you’ve had some backlash about building this wall,” Hoppough says. “What are some of those people saying about it?”
“They’re saying it’s ineffective, they’re saying it’s not going to stop anyone," Kolfage replies. "They said the Cartel is just going to send them through a different route, which they’re right. It’s like a hose. If you have a leaky hose you can plug one hole, but it’s just going to leak somewhere else. With our wall, we’re going to have to plug in those holes trying to make an impact. But we’re enabling with our immigration system. Right now, it’s broken. We’re enabling these people to make a dangerous trip across the desert. The wall is a band-aid.”
When asked what he thought the real solution is, Kolfage responds, "The Band-Aid is the first step. You have to stop the Cartels. You have to address the problem. If you don’t have border security the problem is just going to keep flowing.”
Like those who oppose Kolfage’s idea planted along the southern border, he agrees that this is an issue that cannot be solved just by a wall. He believes that both countries need to work together for a better solution.
“We’re not done though,” Kolfage says. “You’re going to see a lot more of what we’re doing in the next few weeks. We have other property owners that want to sell their land for us to build a wall. We have an order, whatever is the most vital area, that’s what goes next.”