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POLITICO: MAGA all-stars visit border to plot private wall project

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POLITICO: Steve Bannon, Kris Kobach and Erik Prince are among the backers of an improbable effort to start building a border wall without federal funding.

It could have been an outtake from a hard-right reboot of “Ocean’s 11” for the Trump era: a gathering of some of President Donald Trump’s most notorious and outspoken supporters, who descended last week on the Mexican border town of McAllen, Texas.

In what amounted to a kind of #MAGA field trip, former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, former Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach, former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, baseball legend Curt Schilling, and former Sheriff David Clarke convened to discuss a new plan for building a wall along the southern U.S. border. Blackwater founder Erik Prince phoned in from South Africa.

With Congress refusing to pony up the $5.7 billion Trump has demanded for the project, his allies now are plotting to kick things off with private money and private land.

The idea, which began in December as a Florida man’s quixotic online crowdfunding campaign, is becoming something more, well, concrete. Big name Trump supporters like Bannon, a former Trump campaign and White House strategist, have flocked to the project. And they have initiated talks with the Israeli firm that constructed that country’s border fence with Gaza, the group told POLITICO. They expect to hold a town hall in Tucson, Arizona, as soon as Friday and to visit the border in Laredo, Texas, next week.

The new details come as Trump, who reportedly blessed the project in a conversation last month with Kobach, one of the country’s most prominent advocates of restrictionist immigration policies, is expected to renew his demand for a border wall in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night.

Organizers insist they are serious about developing a large-scale infrastructure project, one that could supplement — and trim the cost of — Trump’s proposed federal wall. Whether they can achieve anything close to that remains an open question.

“Look, it’s evolving,” said Bannon, whose involvement in the project has not previously been reported.

“Do we have a billion dollars right now? No. But can we raise one or two hundred million dollars? No doubt about it,” added Bannon, whose compatriots have formed a nonprofit group, We Build the Wall, that grew out of the original crowd-funding campaign.

Still, the endeavor has the air of political theater.

Bannon told POLITICO that his team is studying whether their wall could be constructed from the hemp-based building material hempcrete. “Do you understand the irony of using hempcrete to keep out marijuana?” Bannon said. The group has already entered into a partnership with the Kansas-based America’s Hemp Academy to supply the material if it is ultimately selected for use, according to organizers.

“What these individuals are doing is a great political stunt, but it’s not going to make the country safer,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, a Washington-based, pro-immigration advocacy group. Noorani argued that border security resources would be better deployed at ports of entry.

But even Noorani conceded that the private wall scheme had one advantage over Trump’s border wall proposal: It requires the consent of private landowners, rather than government seizure of their land through eminent domain.

Leon Fresco, a former deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Office of Immigration Litigation, said he was skeptical the effort could make a meaningful dent in migration patterns. He noted that a single mile of border wall could cost millions.

“Twenty million dollars to $30 million is not going to get you very far,” he said. Private wall-building efforts could also run into problems with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department, said Fresco, now a partner at the Washington office of Holland & Knight

“They have the right to be skeptics,” said Brian Kolfage, a triple amputee Iraq war veteran who started the online GoFundMe campaign in December. “It’s something that’s never been done, and it’s a very big project, but we’re going to give it our all.”

About two-thirds of the 2,000-mile border, or roughly 1300 miles, is owned privately or by states, according to a 2015 Government Accountability and Oversight report, which did not offer a more detailed breakdown. Bannon said the group has identified roughly 250-400 miles of privately owned land that the project will target.

After consulting with experts, including representative of the Israeli fencing firm Magal Security Systems, the group believes it can build a mile of wall for $1.5 to $2.5 million, excluding the cost of land, Kolfage said.

Organizers said they plan to use traditional political fundraising methods, like direct mail and email campaigns, to get from the $20 million raised so far to the projected multi-billion-dollar cost of constructing hundreds of miles of wall.

The group plans to promote the wall plan at the annual CPAC political gathering, which begins at the end of February. They are also considering following that with a bus tour and more town halls on the border, Kolfage said. From there, actual construction could be only weeks away. “We should be turning dirt on this thing by 1 May, 1 June at the latest, according to our experts,” he said.

Kolfage said he expects the beginning of construction to spur more fundraising, especially if the group can demonstrate competence to potential mega-donors. “Once we break ground, it’s going to open up a whole new can of worms,” he said.

Kobach suggested raising $100 million for over 30 miles of wall could be achievable in the project’s first year.

The former Kansas secretary of state, who served as vice chair of Trump’s abortive and much-maligned voting fraud commission, said he expected to remain in touch with the president and other federal officials about the project. He said the goal was not to replace but to supplement a federal wall-building effort, and to channel pent-up demand for a barrier, which was a signature 2016 Trump campaign promise.

“Oftentimes people will just wait for the government to do it,” Kobach said. “In this case the need is so urgent that they say they want to do it right now.” The White House did not respond to a request for comment about Kobach’s account of his conversation with Trump about the project.

The effort began when Kolfage, an operator of conspiratorially mind right-wing websites, began a GoFundMe site dedicated to raising private donations for the Treasury Department to fund Trump’s proposed border wall.

But that approach quickly came to look like a dead end. Even if citizens donate funds to the Treasury, Congress would still need to approve their use for a wall. So Kolfage and company switched tacks, forming We Build the Wall to fund a private construction effort on private lands.

Behind the scenes, Bannon has lent the project his connections and star power. Bannon got to know Kolfage after Facebook shut down pages the veteran maintained there last year, and Kolfage turned to Bannon for help. Kolfage said he began flying to Washington for meetings about the wall project facilitated by Bannon in late December.

While Bannon’s involvement had been secret, Prince, Kobach, Clarke, Tancredo and Schilling all serve on the nonprofit’s board. Each of them brings colorful credentials to the mix: Prince, the brother of Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, has performed extensive private security work in the Middle East, Asia and elsewhere. Clarke, a former sheriff of Milwaukee County known for his signature black cowboy hat, has a reputation for espousing extreme law-and-order views on the conservative media and conference circuit. Tancredo made his name as a five-term Congressman with constant calls for tighter border security. And Schilling has pivoted from a storied major league pitching career to a failed video game start-up to hosting a podcast for Breitbart News.

Last week, the group convened for the first time in Texas.

There, they encountered groups of migrants crossing the border to seek asylum. Tancredo said he was surprised that the migrants were “Completely, totally unconcerned about being confronted by us,” and instead were eager to find the Border Patrol so that they could request asylum.

Organizers also conferred with representatives of Magal Security Systems, which built a border barrier between Israel and the Gaza strip. In the weeks following Trump’s 2016 election, Magal publicly offered itself as a natural candidate to build Trump’s proposed wall. Kolfage said he expects to formalize a consulting deal with the firm this week. Magal did not respond to emails requesting comment.

As it pursues its wall, the group has formed several committees, including on site selection, building and fundraising, Tancredo said.

But the ragtag effort remains relatively informal, he said: “I got the impression nobody had a particular title.”

 

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Emergency Declaration Funds Will Only Cover 100 Of 1580 Miles Of Border That Don’t Have Pedestrian Barriers

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By Jeff Rainforth for We Build the Wall, Inc.:

This needs to be shared EVERYWHERE!

On Friday, President Trump declared a national emergency on the border in order to obtain funds to build a wall. The Trump administration plans on constructing 234 miles of steel fencing with the funds, of which, 134 miles of fence will replace aging barriers. Only 100 miles of the border will have new fencing constructed according to administration officials. According to US Customs and Border Protection, pedestrian fencing only covers about 374 miles of the 1,954-mile southern border. With the additional 100 miles the Trump administration wants to build, that will leave 1480 miles without fencing or a wall.

We Build the Wall, Inc. has been planning to build portions of the border wall on private land, and we are slated to begin construction in about a month-and-a-half. Triple-amputee veteran Brian Kolfage, the CEO of We Build the Wall, Inc., has raised over $20 million for construction of the wall or steel fence, and there are billionaires on board to contribute substantial sums to build more.

The Washington Examiner reported on President Trump’s emergency declaration:

“President Trump announced Friday that he would declare a national emergency to build his proposed Mexico border wall, citing crime and violence as his rationale for a move that allows him to redirect funds toward his top 2016 campaign priority.

White House Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney shared details on a media call before Trump’s speech, saying the declaration would allow $8 billion for border barrier construction, including the $1.37 billion in fencing funds approved by Congress this week. Trump signed that spending bill into law at around 2 p.m. Friday, after his public remarks.

A senior administration official on the call with Mulvaney said an emergency declaration was needed only to redirect $3.6 billion in military construction funds, saying low-priority projects would be shelved. The official said Trump could redirect without an emergency about $600 million from the Treasury Department’s forfeiture fund and about $2.5 billion from Defense Department anti-drug activities.

The senior official said the Trump administration plans to build 234 miles of steel bollard wall along the 1,954-mile U.S.-Mexico border but did not specify where. The projected length is the same as what was originally sought when Trump requested $5.7 billion in wall funds, prompting a 35-day partial government shutdown in December and January.”

According to USA Today, two lawsuits have already been filed to stop the administration from using funds to build a border fence. On top of that, California & the ACLU are planning on filing separate suits. The fight will most likely end up before the Supreme Court, but it’s unclear how long that will take.

In January, Fox 47 reported on how much of the wall or fence has been built, & what the Trump administration is planning on the 234 miles of border where construction will take place:

“Nearly two years into Donald Trump’s presidency, the border wall that was a signature promise of his campaign hasn’t been built.

Contractors have replaced miles of dilapidated fencing with more modern alternatives, but they haven’t built barriers anywhere they didn’t exist already.

The US-Mexico border stretches for 1,954 miles. Currently, physical barriers cover 654 of those miles, according to US Customs and Border Protection.

What’s known as vehicle fencing covers 280 miles. This is fencing that’s low to the ground. It would stop a car, but people can easily step over it.

What’s known as pedestrian fencing covers some 374 miles. This is taller and designed to block people from crossing on foot.

Construction is scheduled to start in February on a project that will bring 14 miles of new border wall to the Rio Grande Valley.

Officials say the construction starting in February is only part of the picture. Funding from fiscal year 2018, they say, also covers the cost of building 70 more miles of barriers — about 57 miles of which is replacement fencing.

And if the Trump administration’s proposal for $5.7 billion more for a border wall is approved, officials say they’ll be able to build 234 miles of new and replacement barriers — about 100 miles of which will cover parts of the border that didn’t have a barrier before.”

If the Trump administration is able to use the funds freed up by the emergency declaration, it will only get 100 miles of new fencing built. Everything else is replacement fencing. That leaves 1480 miles of the border without pedestrian fencing or a wall. If we add in the 27 miles of fence slated to be built in February, that leaves 1453 miles of the border without a wall or fencing. That’s counting the 280 miles of the border that has vehicle barriers because people can just climb over them.

That’s where We Build the Wall, Inc. comes in. We will construct fencing or a wall on private property on the border. At the current rate, because of Democrat obstruction, it would take President Trump about 15 years to get funding to build barriers on the border, so we the people will do it ourselves.

Our advisory board members have visited landowners in both Texas & Arizona and we have detailed plans to begin construction on the wall soon.

We Build the Wall, Inc.’s advisory board members include: Brian Kolfage, Steve Bannon, Curt Schilling, Kris Kobach, Sheriff David Clarke, Brandon Darby, Tom Tancredo, Erik Prince, Angel Mom Mary Ann Mendoza, Angel Dad Steve Ronnebeck, Brigadier General Dr. Robert S. Spalding III, industrialist John Daniel Moran, Jr., and we have several major backers behind the scenes. President Trump has also given his blessing to the project.

Here’s how you can help us build the wall:

This is IMPORTANT. If you donated before January 11th and you want your contribution to go towards CONSTRUCTION of the WALL, you need to tell GoFundMe by clicking the link below:

OPT-IN TO HAVE YOUR MONEY GO TOWARDS BUILDING THE WALL HERE

Anyone who donated before January 11th has 90 days to tell GoFundMe to use their contribution to build the wall.

If you donated after January 11th, you don’t have to do anything.

To donate to Kolfage’s wall fund, go to the official GoFundMe account HERE

CHECK DONATIONS:
We Build the Wall, Inc.
PO Box 131567 Houston, Texas 77219-1567

The official wall fundraiser & construction site is at www.webuildthewall.us
Follow Brian Kolfage on Twitter HERE
Like his verified Facebook page HERE

Contacts:
Jennifer Lawrence – Communications Director
media@webuildthewall.us
Cell: 845-800-1552

Jeff Rainforth is a writer & photographer for We Build the Wall, Inc. You can like Jeff on Facebook here and follow him on Twitter here.

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Border Patrol Apprehends 1,300 Illegal Aliens In Southern Texas In One Day – VIDEO

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Via CBS 4 News:

“Border Patrol agents assigned to the Rio Grande Valley sector detained 1,300 undocumented immigrants in one day, according to the agency records.

The record number of holdings happened on Tuesday. Agents said it is the highest number recorded by RGV agents since June 2014.

“Well this just signifies that the amount of people that are coming through this sector is nonstop,” said Herman Rivera, U.S. Border Patrol Agent.

According to U.S. Border Patrol records, many of the immigrants in holding are from Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

During fiscal year 2018, there were over 99,000 requests for asylum according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.

Thousands are entering through the Rio Grande Valley.

Agents tell CBS 4 News they’re seeing the increase in crossings near Western Hidalgo County and Starr County.

“The Rio Grande Valley sector apprehends people from all parts of life, all over the world,” Rivera said. “The RGV sector has seen people from 40 different countries this year alone.”

While other sectors are seeing a caravan of migrants arrive, RGV Border Patrol Chief Rudy Karisch said the Valley sees numbers like that often.

“Every 14 days we have as many people that showed up over there as part of the caravan,” Karisch said.

Three months into fiscal year 2019, over 201,479 people have been detained trying to enter the country illegally through the Southwest Border.

“Transnational criminal organizations utilize crossing large groups of people like family units, in order to tie up the border patrol agents who leave the area open leaving it open for drugs or people to cross,” Rivera said.”

Two weeks ago, board members of We Build the Wall, Inc. were at the Rio Grande in Texas & witnessed many migrants from Honduras illegally crossing the border. Triple-amputee veteran Brian Kolfage, Brandon Darby, Kris Kobach, Tom Tancredo, and Sheriff David Clarke were among the board members who witnessed the illegal entry.

Our team was interviewing landowners in Texas in order to begin building the wall on private property.

Kolfage has raised over $20 million for the wall & we expect to begin construction in about a month-and-a-half.

Here’s how you can help us build the wall:

This is IMPORTANT. If you donated before January 11th and you want your contribution to go towards CONSTRUCTION of the WALL, you need to tell GoFundMe by clicking the link below:

OPT-IN TO HAVE YOUR MONEY GO TOWARDS BUILDING THE WALL HERE

Anyone who donated before January 11th has 90 days to tell GoFundMe to use their contribution to build the wall.

If you donated after January 11th, you don’t have to do anything.

To donate to Kolfage’s wall fund, go to the official GoFundMe account HERE

CHECK DONATIONS:
We Build the Wall, Inc.
PO Box 131567 Houston, Texas 77219-1567

The official wall fundraiser & construction site is at www.webuildthewall.us
Follow Brian Kolfage on Twitter HERE
Like his verified Facebook page HERE

Contacts:
Jennifer Lawrence – Communications Director
media@webuildthewall.us
Cell: 845-800-1552

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Copyright © 2019 We Build the Wall News. All rights reserved. We Build the Wall Inc. is a Florida non-profit tax-exempt advocacy organization under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code. Contributions or gifts to We Build the Wall are not tax deductible for IRS purposes. Not paid for at taxpayer expense.

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