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Florida wounded warrior hits snags with private border wall effort

Retired Senior Airman Brian Kolfage, delivers remarks during the 52nd annual Navy League Sea Service Awards Luncheon. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Diana Quinlan)

The contractor working with the local wounded warrior behind the nonprofit organization building privately funded sections of wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is scheduled to be in court next week in connection with the nonprofit’s latest project in Mission, Texas.

Representatives of North Dakota-based Fisher Industries have a Tuesday court date for a Texas district court hearing on a temporary restraining order issued by Judge Keno Vasquez. The restraining order halts construction of a planned 3.5-mile section of border wall. The temporary restraining order was sought by the National Butterfly Center, a 100-acre wildlife preserve located next to the planned border wall.

“The defendants’ conduct has demonstrated irreparable harm to … (the National Butterfly Center) since defendants have committed willfully, maliciously and with an actual and subjective intent to commit great harm … ,” the order reads, in part.

We Build The Wall, Inc., the nonprofit organization started earlier this year by Brian Kolfage, a retired Air Force senior airman living in Miramar Beach, had been a party to the state restraining order. But according to Kolfage, the nonprofit has only a 5 percent interest in the current project, and will not be a party to the Dec. 17 hearing.

According to Kolfage, We Build The Wall did not buy the private property upon which the Mission wall is being built. The land was purchased by Tommy Fisher, president of Fisher Industries, Kolfage said.

The wall construction effort is also under a federal restraining order issued in a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office on behalf of the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission, a treaty-established body which works with its Mexican counterpart to protect the Rio Grande and Colorado rivers and the lands along the border.

The wall site in Mission runs along the banks of the Rio Grande, and the federal lawsuit contends, in part, that work could cause “a shift of the Rio Grande river channel and, therefore, a shift of the international boundary line.”

USIBWC personnel were at the wall site Wednesday for a demonstration of the wall’s potential effects on the river, according to Kolfage, and “all went well” for the future of the construction effort. Construction of the actual wall will begin “as soon as they (the USIBWC) say ‘go,'” said Kolfage.

While state and federal court action is pending, a road, some lighting and security measures are being installed along the planned wall route, Kolfage said on Wednesday.

One year ago, Kolfage, who lost both legs and his right arm in a 2004 rocket attack in Iraq, began a GoFundMe online fundraising campaign initially aimed at raising $1 billion to assist the federal government in constructing a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Some weeks later, with donations stalled at around $20 million, Kolfage announced a shift in strategy, and created the nonprofit We Build The Wall Inc. to pursue private construction of border wall segments.

Currently, the nonprofit’s website lists its “raised and pledged” funding at $25 million, which is only half of what Kolfage said Wednesday is the $50 million projected cost of the Mission border wall. The wall will include electronic security features and other enhancements in addition to the barrier itself.

According to Kolfage, major private donors to the campaign have pushed the nonprofit’s resources significantly beyond the $25 million figure.

“Tommy Fisher brought in people” who donated large sums to the project, and other large donors also are coming forward, Kolfage said Wednesday.

We Build The Wall Inc. finished its first section of wall, a nearly one-mile stretch in Sunland Park, New Mexico, linking an existing 21-mile section of government-constructed wall with a nearby mountain, in May.

According to Kolfage, that section of wall cost approximately $7.5 million.


© 2019 The Florida Times-Union