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The Private Wall

The Private Wall

The Private Wall
July 18
11:17 2019

Morgan Smith

What a surprise! A private company suddenly announces that it is going to build a section of wall along the US-Mexico border near El Paso and Juárez. Then a further surprise. The company actually builds the wall in less than a month.

This project was initiated by an organization named We Build the Wall, headed by Brian Kolfage, an Air Force veteran who lost three limbs in the Iraq war. His Board of Directors includes former Congressman Tom Tancredo from Colorado, long known for his anti-immigration views. Via a GoFundMe effort, Kolfage has raised roughly $20 million for wall construction.

On June 13, I drove to Sunland Park, New Mexico and followed a narrow dirt road along the Rio Grande River and past the American Eagle Brick Company. And suddenly there was this wall stretching up the very rugged mountainside.

Soon some twenty US soldiers arrived. They were from Fort Polk, Louisiana and had been assigned to El Paso to work with the US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). With them was Foreman Mike, the spokesman for Fisher Industries, the North Dakota company that actually did the construction. He invited me to join the tour for the soldiers and we drove to the top of the wall from where we could see El Paso across the Rio Grande river below. The wall is over a half mile in length, has a 31% grade and cost about $8 million, much less according to Foreman Mike than what it would cost the federal government.

They didn’t have permits from Sunland Park or the International Boundary and Water Commission but that was quickly resolved. I have now had three opportunities to see the wall in the Juárez-El Paso area. On April 19, we saw where it simply ends. On May 19, I watched migrants come running through that gap. Now I’ve seen the new private wall. Here are some reactions.

Building a wall this size in these extremely rugged conditions in less than a month is an astonishing feat. Although expanding the border wall is a heated issue between President Trump and Congress, it seems obvious that some additional construction is justified. Most Americans, including many who are pro-immigration like me, believe that it is up to us as Americans to decide who comes into our country and under what circumstances.

The current “wall situation” in the El Paso-Juárez area doesn’t make sense.

Although this wall isn’t physically connected to the existing walls, there is no doubt that the builders consulted extensively with CBP officials before deciding where to build it. CBP officers participated in the briefing I attended with Foreman Mike and said that the wall had already had a positive effect.

The larger immigration issues are a matter of confusion, however. I understand why migrants are fleeing Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador but why are so many coming so suddenly? Conditions in those countries have been terrible for years. And why were we so poorly prepared?

Kolfage has another $10 to $12 million for wall construction, has plans for further additions as well as support from the Trump administration. That, however, isn’t the real issue today.  The real issue is that migrants are not receiving the humane treatment for which we Americans are known. That has to change.


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