AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio
- The GoFundMe border wall was ordered by officials to stay open because it’s been constructed on federal property.
- The International Boundary and Water Commission opened the gate on Monday after it blocked access to to Monument One, the first in a series of markers that outlines the US-Mexico border from El Paso to Tijuana, as well as their levee and dam.
- An IBWC spokesperson told Business Insider that We Build the Wall, the group behind the barrier, built the gate without submitting a permit application.
- Brian Kolfage, who started We Build the Wall, told Business Insider that they have been working with IBWC since the beginning and had been told they could build without the permit as they worked through the process to submit their application.
- As of now, the gate will remain open during the day and locked at night.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
A gate built by the group We Build the Wall, which gained notoriety for its GoFundMe campaign to build a border wall on private land, was ordered by officials to stay open because it was constructed on federal property.
The group announced over Memorial Day Weekend that it had completed a small portion of border wall on private land near the Texas-New Mexico border, with the help of more than $23 million donated on GoFundMe. But, according to the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), which was created to oversee waterway issues between the United States and Mexico, the group failed to acquire needed permits to construct the gate, which is built into the barrier, on federal land.
In response, and after multiple requests by IBWC for We Build the Wall to cease operations on their property, IBWC commissioner Jayne Harkins decided on Monday to open the gate, Lori Kuczmanski, an IBWC spokesperson, told Business Insider. She said that the closed gate blocked access to Monument One, the first in a series of markers that outlines the US-Mexico border from El Paso to Tijuana, as well as their levee and dam.
"It prohibited us from doing our operation and mission, maintaining the levee, we have to do vegetation control, dam maintenance… we have to have oversight of our area and we were locked out of that for days," Kuczmanski told Business Insider.
She said that We Build the Wall decided to build the gate without submitting a permit application with required documentation about the project, a process that typically takes around three to six months. "Considering we had asked them to cease operations and we were confident they would do that and abide by the rules, we were pretty shocked they went ahead with construction, which is not a normal practice," she said.
Brian Kolfage, the triple-amputee war veteran who started the group, wrote a series of tweets blasting IBWC after they opened the gate. He told Business Insider that his group has been working with them since the beginning and said he had been told that they could build without the permit as they worked through that process to submit their application.
"They allowed us to build a wall on their property and we were thankful for that. There were no issues at all until the ACLU got involved and then the day later they backtracked on everything and said that the wall was going to be open indefinitely," Kolfage said. "We’ve been submitting drawings, plans, and they were okay with us building before we had their permit."
Kolfage added that the gate was never locked and all the IBWC had to do was "push it open and, boom, they’re in."
He told Business Insider that he eventually wants the Department of Homeland Security to act as gatekeepers for the barrier. "They support what we’re doing behind closed doors," Kolfage said. "All the agents love it, all the agents were actually really pissed off when they came to work the next morning and saw the gate open."
A US Customs and Border Protection spokesperson told Business Insider in May that "this project is not connected to our efforts," and that Border Patrol "has identified requirements to construct more than 700 miles of border barriers along the Southwest border. These requirements have been prioritized against currently identified funding sources to enable construction in locations where border barriers will most impact border security operations."
"It is not uncommon for vendors to undertake demonstrations of their capabilities utilizing their own resources," the spokesperson added. "We encourage all interested vendors to compete for border barrier contracts through established mechanisms to ensure any construction is carried out under relevant federal authorities and meets UBSP operational requirements for border barrier."
Kuczmanski told Business Insider that IBWC commissioner Harkins decided on Tuesday that while the gate will remain open during the day, IBWC will close it at night —which, according to Kalfage, is fine because "all the traffic comes through that area at night." Kuczmanski added that the gate will remain open until everything is resolved, describing the process as ongoing.
Kolfage said that the gate staying open is a temporary decision and he is optimistic the issue will be resolved soon. We Build the Wall plans to begin construction on the remainder of its barrier over the next couple of months.
"I’m not sure when everything was finally submitted, but [IBWC] has everything as of today, and we are pretty sure tomorrow they are going to say We Build the Wall has given everything and we now have the permit," he said. "I am very confident this will all be resolved hopefully tomorrow."
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