"I will get it built," President Donald Trump proclaimed during his State of the Union speech on February 5, citing the "wall or barrier" he's been touting since 2015 but has yet to stop anything...other than the federal government, which shut down during stymied debate late last year and could again in a little more than a week.
In the meantime, numerous border-line personalities have rallied, including Florida vet Brian Kolfage, a triple amputee whose GoFundMe campaign launched five days before the government shutdown, grabbing headlines and millions in commitments to help build Trump’s long-promised wall between the United States and Mexico, to stop border crossings that State of the Union fact-checkers agree are already at the lowest point since 1971.
Hearing about such efforts inspired Denver musician Will Hayden to come up with his own “Colorado Border Wall” GoFundMe campaign boosting a barrier, this one blocking the state of Colorado from New Mexico. Here’s his pitch:
Here in Colorado we are being accosted by outsiders jacking up our rent, smoking our weed and using our preciously fracked energy. We need a WALL around Colorado to stop people from entering. In addition, I promise to use these funds to attempt to force out anyone who has moved here in the last 10 years in an effort to MAKE COLORADO GREAT AGAIN!!!
Who am I? angry coloradan
what am I doing? BUILDING WALL
Yes, it’s a spoof. Hayden is part of the band Television Generation, which has played the Westword Music Showcase and supports social-justice causes. He spent time in La Junta (where he wrote for the local newspaper), so he knows all about the evils of neighboring New Mexico (including the threat that state’s green chile poses to the Colorado version). He also understands the dangers of taking yourself too seriously. “With the whole Trump border wall talk going around,” he explains, “with everyone raising funds for this silly thing, I decided, why not just build a wall around Colorado?”
His campaign, which went live at the end of December, has netted a lot of laughs and shares, but just $100 toward its admittedly lofty $1 million goal.
But then, Kolfage’s revised “We the People Will Build the Wall” project is going for $1 billion in commitments. The original campaign, which was introduced on December 17, raised $18 million within two weeks by plucking on heartstrings and wallets with sentiments like this:
Like a majority of those American citizens who voted to elect President Donald J Trump, we voted for him to Make America Great Again. President Trump’s main campaign promise was to BUILD THE WALL. And as he’s followed through on just about every promise so far, this wall project needs to be completed still....Democrats are going to stall this project by every means possible and play political games to ensure President Trump doesn’t get his victor. They’d rather see President Trump fail, than see America succeed. However, if we can fund a large portion of this wall, it will jumpstart things and will be less money Trump has to secure from our politicians.
When it turned out that the government wouldn’t be able to accept donations (some of which had been directed to a questionable Castle Rock post office box) to build a wall anytime soon, Kolfage changed course a month ago, establishing the nonprofit WeBuildtheWall Inc., offering refunds on earlier donations and switching the mission: “We are no longer just funding the wall, we are now BUILDING the wall,” according to the new GoFundMe site.
On the site, Kolfage says he consulted with experts in law, politics, national security, construction and finance, and concluded that “we are better equipped than our own government to use the donated funds to build an actual wall on the southern border,” noting that his team “strongly believes we can complete our segments of the wall for less than half of the government’s estimated cost on a per mile basis.” So far, more than $20 million has been donated to the renewed effort through GoFundMe.com/thetrumpwall and checks that are now directed to Houston. And you can even volunteer to help build the wall!
Among those volunteered for duty: former U.S. representative and eternal lightning rod Tom Tancredo, who agreed to serve on the advisory board of WeBuildtheWall once Kolfage focused on building the wall privately rather than donating funds for the task to the federal government. “Of course, that’s idiotic,” says Tancredo, who knows just how many obstacles the federal government can put in its own way.
Tancredo just returned from a fact-finding mission to McAllen, Texas; it was the first meeting of the WeBuildtheWall advisory group. “I thought I knew everything there was to know about this issue, and I learned so much,” he says of his trip to the border. He learned a lot about the cartels, which have discovered they can make more money smuggling people than smuggling drugs, holding their families hostage while they wait for the new immigrants to send money back home. He also listened as officials with the Israeli company that built the wall in Israel — fences, really, he says — said they could build the same wall Trump is estimating at $19 million a mile for $7 million. Not that his group will raise enough to build an entire 2,000-mile wall/fence, but donations were coming in at a rate of $100,000 a day when he was in Texas, Tancredo notes.
“The hard part, to tell you the truth, is to find the landowners adjacent to the border who will allow you to build,” he adds. “It’s not as easy as it sounds. It’s going to be a challenge.”
While politicians in Washington strategize how to block Trump from again shutting down the government, or declaring a national emergency in order to get that wall built and then being immediately stymied by a lawsuit, Tancredo is heading to Arizona on February 6 on another fact-finding mission. Depending on what happens in D.C.,“we could be the only game in town,” he says. And laughs.
Not quite. Because another Coloradan is now aiming high with “Send Ladders to the US/Mexico Border.” Yes, this GoFundMe campaign is a spoof, too, but with the serious goal of raising awareness about just how silly building a wall would be:
While the current administration pushes to build an inefficient wall and backtrack on centuries of American progress, diversity, and collective potential brought by immigrants, maybe it is best to stay one “step” ahead.
The solution: ladders.
Myles Wallingford, who grew up in the Denver area and attended the University of Colorado Boulder, had been working with human-rights groups in Eastern Europe for about two years, and when he returned home around New Year’s, “I knew this was the issue I wanted to focus on.”
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With his GoFundMe, he says, “I’m hoping to create a set of resources that are available to people, raise awareness of people who are doing this kind of thing.” The site lists 29 organizations that he “heavily vetted for effectiveness,” organizations that are still going to be around, still doing work, whether the wall is built or not.
“It’s a humorous way to bring people into the conversation,” he explains. “I think people feel a bit helpless. There are thousands of things citizens can do; this GoFundMe is just one small piece of the puzzle.”
The site makes it clear that the goal is to raise funds for those organizations, not to raise ladders — which is good, because in a week, the campaign collected just $10 of its $100,000 goal. Hayden, too, promises that any pledges to his project will be donated. “It was fun to just throw a Molotov cocktail into the fray,” he says. “If people did donate to it, I’d probably find a charity...maybe for ladders.”
Fair warning: According to Tancredo, anyone using a ladder to scale the wall that his group wants to build will find that it’s “not an easy climb.”
But these days, what is?