By Sylvia Longmire
Columnist, In Homeland Security
When you want something done right, sometimes you have to do it yourself; and building a 30-foot wall at the U.S.-Mexico border is apparently no exception.
The American Border Foundation is a nonprofit that claims it “exists to help all Americans achieve and maintain a secure border.” It has created a crowdfunding campaign to “deliver funds to DHS for border wall construction,” and has a goal of raising $450 million. On Dec. 16, Brian Kolfage, 37, who lost three limbs while fighting as a senior airman in Iraq in 2004, started a GoFundMe campaign entitled “We The People Will Fund The Wall.” As of 11.00 a.m. EST on Dec. 20, the campaign had already raised more than $4.3 million toward its goal of $1 billion, and donations were coming in by the minute. However, even with an average daily donation of around $1 million, it would still take years to hit the $1 billion mark – and that is only a fifth of the border wall’s estimated cost. You can keep tabs on Kolfage’s GoFundMe tally below; just refresh this article for the latest amount raised:
As crazy as it sounds, neither of these funding programs represents the first time a private organization has attempted to pay for the expansion of the southwest border fence. In 2011, Arizona lawmakers garnered national attention when they concocted a plan to build expanded border fencing in their state with money raised from private donors. State Sen. Steve Smith was the driving force behind the fundraising effort, but they only garnered roughly $270,000 from donors – Kolfage’s GoFundMe page raises almost that much in about half a day. Considering it cost several million dollars to build just one mile of border fence, nothing was done with the money and it sat in a trust for several years.
In 2015, Arizona State lawmakers decided to give the bulk of the money to the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office to help create a “virtual fence” with surveillance cameras and other equipment, according to AZCentral.com. Despite the logistical failure of the campaign to build an actual fence, State Sen. Smith said the goal of the fundraising campaign was “always symbolic and just intended to draw attention to federal inaction on border security.” The Sheriff’s Office was able to use the money to install 50 surveillance cameras along the 42 square-mile stretch of the San Pedro River Valley.
American Border Foundation
The American Border Foundation campaign, officially called Fund the Wall, explains through its website that it is “specifically legal and acceptable to deliver gifts to DHS that ‘aid or facilitate DHS’s work.’” The foundation also states that their condition that the funds be used for construction of a border barrier are acceptable because “the conditions do not unduly restrict or interfere with the work of DHS, and do not attach conditions inconsistent with applicable laws or regulations.” At least the Foundation has been very transparent with how the donations are being spent, going into great detail in a Dec. 10 blog post about the difficulties of actually getting the money to DHS. Despite the Foundation’s insistence that the donations are perfectly legal, the blog post makes it seem as if DHS is very reluctant to publicly accept a check.
The author stated they first tried to meet with DHS in Washington, DC in late October, but that didn’t work. A local sheriff suggested potentially participating in a meeting on the border in early November, but “that proved out of the question.” Then they heard nothing from DHS following midterm elections. The Foundation finally received a form outlining the process, which comes down to just sending DHS a check.
Fund the Wall also (conveniently) has an online store, with hats, shirts, and mugs bearing the initiative’s logo. The site proudly states that “donations aren’t the only way to fund border security,” and that “proceeds from the marketplace fund border security.” The site did not indicate if profits for merchandise sales also go towards checks for DHS. Kolfage’s GoFundMe page proudly states: “If the 63 million people who voted for Trump each pledge $80, we can build the wall.” That’s a hard sell, but in today’s political world in America, who knows?