The Phoenix Flyer

State investigating private FL “Build the Wall” charity group, report says

By: - May 30, 2019 2:54 pm

Private construction of a border wall Source: We Build the Wall

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is investigating a Florida-based group that is attempting to raise private donations and build a wall along the U.S.-New Mexico border, WLRN reports.

Fried, a Democrat who oversees Florida’s top consumer agency, has the responsibility to investigate complaints about Florida charities and their activities.

“In response to consumer complaints, including those referred by the Office of the Attorney General, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has opened an investigation into this charity,” Fried spokesman Franco Ripple told WLRN.

We Build the Wall Inc., the group raising the funds and building the wall, is a Florida nonprofit advocacy group. It was founded by Brian Kolfage, a disabled U.S. Air Force veteran from Miramar who was wounded in the Iraq War in 2004.

Its advisory board members include Steve Bannon, a former adviser to President Donald Trump; former Colorado U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, a Republican who has been an outspoken critic of immigration policies; former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, who has been a critic of the Black Lives Matter movement; and Kris Kobach, the former Kansas secretary of state who was under consideration for appointment as Trump’s “immigration czar.”

The group has raised more than $23 million for its wall project, with a goal of $1 billion, according to its GoFundMe page.

The wall-building effort got underway on Memorial Day in New Mexico. But the New York Times reports that the project that initially aims to build less than a one-mile stretch of wall has run into opposition.

The mayor of Sunland Park, the New Mexico city where the wall is being built on private property, told the New York Times that the construction is “in violation of city ordinances.”

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico is also opposed to the project.

“To act as though throwing up a small section of wall on private land does anything to effectively secure our southern border from human and drug trafficking or address the humanitarian needs of the asylum seekers and local communities receiving them — that’s nonsense,” she told the New York Times.

We Build the Wall initially sought to raise donations to contribute to the federal government’s effort to build  a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. But when the group was told the money could not be earmarked for that construction, supporters announced they would raise the money and build a portion of the wall themselves.

Trump is supporting the project.

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Lloyd Dunkelberger
Lloyd Dunkelberger

Lloyd Dunkelberger has been covering Florida government for over three decades. He’s reported and edited in Tallahassee for the New York Times Regional Newspapers group, Florida Politics, and the News Service of Florida. He grew up in Jacksonville and Palm Beach County and got his journalism degree at the University of Florida.