Get started on your Homeland Security degree at American Military University.
By Sylvia Longmire
Contributor, In Homeland Security
For many years, there have been several attempts to recruit donors and privately raise money to build additional sections of fencing and barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border. Historically, they have not amounted to much activity until very recently. According to FOXNews.com, a privately funded organization called “We Build the Wall” began work this past weekend on the project to erect a section of border wall in the El Paso, Texas sector.
A triple-amputee Air Force veteran founded the organization, saying in a series of social media posts on Memorial Day that it had begun construction on private property in New Mexico. Brian Kolfage began the effort to raise money through a GoFundMe campaign late in 2018, and according to CNN, the campaign has raised more than $20 million in donations. More than 300,000 people contributed, and the average donation was $67.
Trump’s Request for Wall Funding Denied
While $20 million sounds like a sizable amount, the actual construction process has highlighted how expensive it is to build border fencing. President Trump’s requests from Congress for border funding was $5.7 billion for 234 miles of fence – which was subsequently denied repeatedly.
Kris Kobach, former Kansas Secretary of State told CNN that a half-mile stretch of wall on the site is nearly finished, costing an estimated $6 to $8 million to build. The main contractor working at the site is North Dakota-based Fisher Industries, which has recently come under fire for receiving allegedly preferential attention from President Trump.
Steve Bannon’s Involvement
There are some questions about the site selection and the effectiveness of building only one mile of additional fencing. Controversial former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who chairs the organization’s advisory board, told CNN that the section connects two 21-mile length of existing fencing. CNN was not able to independently confirm this claim.
Bannon also stated that the Border Patrol told the organization it’s the most important mile of border fence gap to close. CBP spokesman Roger Maier told CNN, “The project is not connected to our efforts.” White House border fence construction plans under its national emergency declaration include sections in Arizona and Texas, but not in New Mexico.
One of the biggest challenges to new border fence construction is dealing with private property along the southwest border. The Department of Homeland Security has been battling with property owners in Arizona, and mostly Texas, through eminent domain proceedings, which often turn hostile.
In this case, the property owner is more than happy to have this private fence construction happening on his land. Jeff Allen told CNN, “I have five illegals on this property for six years. I love my country, and this is a step in protecting my country.” The half-mile section of metal bollard-style fencing literally went up overnight on Allen’s property from Friday to Saturday.
Based on financial figures provided to CNN, the $20 million raised by private donors will fund no more than a mile and a half of fence construction. There have been no mentions of how the fence will be maintained, for how long or by whom.
Kobach declined to specify which areas the group is considering for future fence construction, but said a site in Texas and one in California are next on the group’s list. Property owners in those states for the proposed sites were not named. He also did not indicate how future fundraising efforts would continue, or if people will keep donating to the GoFundMe site on a regular basis.