Federal Agencies Push Back on Claim They Sanctioned Private Border Wall Construction
The founder of the nonprofit group that built a half-mile border wall over Memorial Day weekend said the Trump administration sanctioned the project, but two federal agencies disputed his claim Wednesday.
Triple amputee and Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage said Wednesday that the Trump administration called the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) and authorized the construction on private property near El Paso, Texas. He also said that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) approved the venture.
However, a spokeswoman for the IBWC told The Daily Caller News Foundation it received no such call from the Trump administration regarding We Build The Wall, which is funded by the viral $20 million GoFundMe fundraising campaign Kolfage launched in December.
The International Boundary and Water Commission received a call direct from the Trump administration last week authorizing our build- WE ARE IN FULL COMPLIANCE! #Winning
— Brian Kolfage (@BrianKolfage) May 29, 2019
“We are not aware of any call from the administration, and there would be no reason for our authorization because it’s on private land,” said the spokeswoman for the U.S. section of the IBWC, Lori Kuczmanski.
Kolfage hinted on Twitter that he had evidence of the Trump administration’s authorization, but said he was “saving it for the media to break.”
We Build The Wall did not return a request for comment.
Kolfage’s tweet came one day after Sunland Park, New Mexico, issued a cease and desist order to the owner of the land where We Build The Wall’s barrier was constructed. The letter said it violated a city ordinance.
“There was no survey submitted with the plans at this point. There’s no site plan developed or turned into the city of Sunland Park,” Sunland Park Mayor Javier Perea said at a press conference Tuesday. “Also, city ordinance only allows a wall up to six feet tall, and this far exceeds that.”
The DHS also pushed back on Kolfage, who told the Daily Mail on Monday that the agency approved his organization’s build.
“This project is not connected to DHS efforts,” a DHS spokeswoman told TheDCNF.
Kolfage also told the Daily Mail that former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is representing We Build The Wall in talks with the DHS in an effort to receive “permission to build inside the Roosevelt Easement.”
The DHS spokeswoman would not say whether it was in talks with We Build The Wall. Key figures in Kolfage’s organization have close ties to President Donald Trump.
Steve Bannon, who served as Trump’s White House chief strategist in 2017, is We Build The Wall’s director. Kobach led Trump’s now-disbanded Presidential Advisory on Election Integrity alongside Vice President Mike Pence. The president was reportedly considering Kobach in May for a new “immigration czar” position to coordinate the administration’s immigration policies.
Trump has also “aggressively” pushed DHS to award a border wall contract with Fisher Industries, the North Dakota-based construction firm working with Kolfage’s organization, according to The Washington Post.
Fisher Industries CEO Tommy Fisher and Kobach have been featured in videos posted to We Build The Wall’s YouTube channel touting that they built the barrier in an area the Army Corps of Engineers said was too rugged to build on at a cost far lower than government estimates. The Office of Management and Budget said in January that the border wall would cost $24.4 million per mile, but Kolfage’s organization said it constructed a half-mile barrier for an estimated $6 to $8 million.
Kobach also said Fisher Industries used a much higher quality steel with a lifespan of 75 years for We Build The Wall’s barrier, compared to the 25-year lifespan of the steel used in the federal government’s existing border wall.
Fisher Industries filed a lawsuit against the federal government in April after it lost out on a lucrative contract to construct 50 miles of border fencing. The Army Corps of Engineers said the design submitted by Fisher Industries did not meet the “operational requirements” of Customs and Border Protection.
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