NEW MEXICO — A group that raised millions of dollars in a GoFundMe campaign says it has broken ground on a project to build its own stretch of border wall on private property.
We Build the Wall, a group founded by a triple amputee Air Force veteran, said in a series of social media posts on Monday that it had started construction on private property in New Mexico. The announcement comes months after the group began its GoFundMe campaign to raise private donations for a border wall, and days after a federal judge blocked President Donald Trump from tapping into billions in Defense Department funds for his administration’s wall construction efforts.
“Buckle up, we’re just getting started!” the group wrote in a Facebook post, sharing what it said were images of construction over the weekend.
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who chairs We Build the Wall’s advisory board, told CNN on Monday that the group has built a mile of border wall in the El Paso, Texas, area — something he says connects two 21-mile sections of existing fencing.
CNN was not able to independently confirm that the new wall connects the two portions of border fencing constructed by the federal government.
“Border Patrol told us it’s the No. 1 most important miles to close. The tough terrain always left it off the government list,” Bannon said. “And that’s what we focus on — private land that is not in the program and take the toughest first.”
CNN has reached out to U.S. Customs and Border Protection for comment.
CNN on Monday observed construction crews working with heavy machinery in an area of the U.S.-Mexico border near the New Mexico-Texas state line.
Daniel Garcia Salinas, the director of a nearby museum on the Mexican side of the border, told CNN the new wall went up rapidly over the weekend, changing the horizon behind the Museo Casa de Adobe.
Garcia said that when he had left the museum Friday afternoon there was no fencing there. By Saturday morning, portions of new wall had been constructed. “They moved very quickly,” he said.
Leaders of the group offered different assessments of how much construction had occurred.
While Bannon told CNN a mile of new wall had been built, former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, We Build the Wall’s general counsel, told “Fox & Friends” on Monday that half a mile of steel fencing had been built on private property near El Paso.
“There’s been a half-mile gap between the existing wall and Mount Cristo Rey. And it was a ridiculously large gap that the smuggling of both people and drugs would go through,” Kobach said, describing the effort as “the first time any private organization has built border wall on private land.”
We Build the Wall’s fundraising efforts began in December. At the time, founder Brian Kolfage told CNN he’d decided to move forward because of “inaction from our politicians.”
The ongoing campaign has raked in more than $20 million in donations on GoFundMe.
Recent reports detailed how some donors questioned why they hadn’t seen any construction despite the millions donated, but organizers said they had to keep plans secret to protect the project.
“Remember powerful people want to stop our progress, so to not tip anyone off we are radio silent!” Kolfage wrote in a Facebook post shared by the group earlier this month. “The (American Civil Liberties Union) would file a lawsuit to impede our wall success if they knew where and when.”
On Monday, Kolfage and other supporters of the organization were trumpeting their efforts on social media. “All the haters said it was impossible!!” Kolfage wrote on Twitter. “Bahaha where ya at now?”