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2 Feb, 2019 02:40

Their own private wall: Scouting underway in US for crowdfunded border barrier with Mexico

Their own private wall: Scouting underway in US for crowdfunded border barrier with Mexico

The people behind a fundraiser in support of President Donald Trump’s border wall have been touring South Texas, trying to get local farmers on board with their private project to erect a barrier on the US-Mexico border.

The scouting party is led by Brian Coflage, the man behind the ambitious December 2018 fundraiser that aimed at giving Trump’s southern border wall a boost through private financing. The effort racked up over $20 million in donations and has since been transformed into a non-profit, which pledges to invest the money into a wall-building effort. Coflage, an Iraq War veteran and triple amputee, and his associates have been touting their plan before local landowners this week, AP reported.

Regardless of who wants to build the wall to stop illegal immigration, the project faces environmental and legal challenges, considering that much of the land needed for it is private. WeBuildtheWall activists can’t use eminent domain powers like the government does, so diplomacy is their only option.

Also on rt.com Border wall GoFundMe raises $20mn out of 1-billion goal, campaigners pledge to build wall themselves

The landowners who were previously averse to the idea of having a barrier crossing their property several years ago now approve of it, says Dustin Stockton, the organization’s vice-president of strategy and marketing.

READ MORE: ‘Several thousand’ more troops headed for US-Mexico border - Pentagon

“We talked to several people who weren't interested in having a wall five or six years ago who have since changed their mind based on what they're seeing happening on their land," Stockton said, according to AP.

They have a tough row to hoe, considering that the sum in their coffers, which may seem like a lot, is only a fraction of what is needed. The fundraiser failed to reach its stated goal – $1 billion in contributions – despite becoming an immense success in terms of the money collected.

And when in January they decided against simply giving the money to the government and instead hire construction workers and bulldozers, they gave an option to donors to either opt in for their new plan or get their money back. So far 53 percent of the donors agreed to go private, with 43 percent yet to make their decision.

Coflage explained the change of mission in mid-January, saying that with the shutdown underway, the government would not be able to accept the donations “any time soon” and that the non-profit would be “better equipped… to use the donated funds to build an actual wall on the southern border.”

In the last few weeks, WeBuildtheWall has added several well-known names to the list its supporters, boosting its already heavily-publicized profile. Among them are three-time baseball world champion Curt Schilling, who said that he was an “early donor” to the project, and Breitbart Texas director and prominent conservative blogger Brandon Darby. The charity has also received strong backing from former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who also sits on its advisory board.

READ MORE: US government shutdown cost more than border wall Trump asked for

The wannabe private wall-builders have the backing of many conservatives, but are yet to receive a direct nod of approval from the president himself. Kobach argued last week that Trump fully embraces the project.

“I talked with the president, and the ‘We Build the Wall Effort’ came up. The president said ‘the project has my blessing, and you can tell the media that,” Kobach told the New York Times last week.

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