GoFundMe border wall construction back in motion after New Mexico city lifts cease-and-desist
Brian Kolfage, We Build The Wall founder, speaks at a press conference Thursday, May 30, in Sunland Park, New Mexico.
El Paso Times
A non-profit group touted the progress on a privately funded border wall Thursday, two days after the Sunland Park mayor said the barrier was being built illegally.
The We Build The Wall group held a press conference Thursday to officially unveil the “first ever privately built border wall on US-Mexico border.”
On Tuesday, Sunland Park Mayor Javier Perea claimed that the wall was built illegally after the property owners did obtain the necessary permits to erect the fencing.
Sunland Park city officials sent the property owners and the group a cease and desist letter to halt the construction. Construction stopped Tuesday, but quickly began again Thursday after the group got the go-ahead from the city.
“We actually applied for permits last week and we were told we were set and ready to go,” We Build the Wall general counsel Kris Kobach said. “We asked the city inspector on Friday if we could begin to work and told by the city inspector that we could begin the work. But then on Tuesday, the city looked at one of the applications and thought they needed more information for that application., We were happy to provide and we did provide additional information, a more detailed a site plan, etc.”
He added, “A statement from someone (on Tuesday from city officials) when the stop work order was issued that they thought the project was not in compliance with the city’s ordinances, that statement was incorrect. The city now agrees with us that there is no violation of any ordinance.”
Perea, however, maintains that American Eagle Brick Company, who owns the property where the wall is being constructed, was out of compliance by not having building permits at the time of construction.
“If they had done their due diligence ahead of time it would have given the staff enough time to address the concerns in an appropriate manner,” Perea said. “We will continue to ensure that they are meeting all city ordinances for the time being.”
He added the company may still be fined for initial non-compliance.
The stop work order was lifted by Sunland Park city officials at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Kobach said. He added after the work order was lifted, the group didn’t have any of the machinery on site, so construction resumed Thursday morning.
“There was roughly a 36-hour delay in our work,” Kobach said. “The day before yesterday, we received the stop work order from the city and then we got things going at about 6 a.m. this morning (Thursday).”
The wall, which is about a half-mile long, is now expected to be completed within the next two days, Kobach said.
The barrier is being built near the Monument One — an official marker at the spot where New Mexico, Texas and the Mexican state of Chihuahua converge — at Border Highway West, near Executive Center Boulevard.
The wall is more than 20 feet tall and goes up a 300-foot incline over mountainous terrain. It also extends seven feet into the ground.
“Any talk about illegal or legal immigration starts with border security,” former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Alexander Clarke Jr., known from his hard stance on immigration, said. “If you do not fortify the border, it makes no difference with whatever other changes you make in this multifaceted issue of immigration in the United States of America. You can deport all the people you want, you can take all the people who overstay their visas and kick them out, but if your border is not secure they are coming right back in.”
The group built the wall, which is costing between $6 to $8 million, through funds organized raised through a GoFundMe campaign. The campaign raised more than $23 million as of Thursday.
The group was started by a U.S. Air Force veteran, Brian Kolfage, and is being led by several prominent Republican leaders including former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and and former White House strategist Steve Bannon.
“This is a project by the American people who believe in border security and that there is a crisis down here,” Kolfage said.
As part of the announcement of the continuing construction of the wall, several “Angel Families” group members spoke at the news conference stressing their beliefs that a wall is needed at the Southern border.
One of the speakers was Mary Ann Mendoza, who is also an advisory board member of We Build the Wall, spoke about the loss of her son, Brandon Mendoza, who was killed in 2014 by a drunk driver who was in the U.S. illegally.
“This (a t-shirt with a photo of her son) and every wristband on my arms is a reminder that this is the final result of a illegal immigration in our country,” Mary Ann Mendoza said. “This is the ultimate sacrifice of American citizens.”
Mendoza said she believes the privately-built wall in Sunland Park will help prevent another death involving illegal immigrants.
“My son’s life was snuffed out in 2014 by a drunk repeat illegal alien criminal who was allowed to stay in our country,” Mary Ann Mendoza said. “We are all in support for legal immigration. Illegal immigration is what we don’t accept. It is a criminal act in itself and we need to stop the flow. This (the wall) is a beautiful thing and has affected every Angel Family.”
Steve Ronnebeck, who is part of the Angel Families and advisory board member of We Build the Wall, discussed the death of his son, Grant Ronnebeck, who was shot and killed in 2015 while working at a store. A man who was allegedly illegally in the U.S. shot him for a pack of cigarettes.
“January 22nd, 2015 was the worst day of my life,” Steve Ronnebeck said. “Today (Thursday) is a great day because America did this. The American people did this. They did it out of their own pockets.”
He continued, “There has never been one of us that has said all illegal immigrants are bad, but we want them to come in legally. Today, this (the wall) is going to help some of them come legally. Grant was executed by an illegal alien January 22nd, 2015 over a pack of cigarettes. And today is amazing.”
Perea disagreed with the sentiment behind the wall, saying the wall will succeed in funneling migrants to different locations, but it won’t curb the issues those who funded the wall are trying to prevent.
“I believe there is an impression that the wall curbs drug trafficking, illegal immigration and human trafficking,” Perea said. “I think those problems are more systemic and bigger issues for the United States.”
Mayor Javier Perea said Tuesday that the property owner did not have the necessary permits to erect the fencing. El Paso Times
Jeff Allen, who is co-owner of American Eagle Brick Company where the wall is being built, told the El Paso Times Monday that the wall was needed due to illegal migrants and drug trafficking using the area. He added that anyone against building a wall “is against America.”
Border Network for Human Rights executive director Fernando Garcia said in a statement earlier this week that the We Build the Wall group is using fear tactics and are “white supremacists and xenophobic groups.”
“These extremist groups do not belong to our border community, they do not know our border and we will not allow them to come and define it for us,” Garcia said. “These extremist groups come from other parts of the country to keep promoting their racist agenda in our community, to keep imposing their ill-conceived and erroneous belief that we need a wall to keep us safe when in fact we had never need it.”