For Brian Kolfage, a triple amputee severely wounded serving in the Iraq War and founder of a crowdfunding campaign to build a border wall, it’s not a matter of if Trump’s much-touted and controversial border wall will be built – it’s when.
“So many people don’t know we are moving ahead with this project. When we start breaking ground soon, it is going to go gangbusters again,” Kolfage told Fox News. “We don’t feel President Trump is going to get what he wants, and we are going to be the only option for people to have border security and border protection.”
Kolfage catapulted into the national limelight late last year after launching a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to aid the White House endeavor. But after falling short of the $1 billion goal, Kolfage came under fire over concerns about the GoFundMe rules and regulations.
However, he claims that he was advised by supporters of the cause not to just give up and return the donated funds – but to carve out another path focusing on going forward with private construction, which has involved officially establishing a 501(c)4 nonprofit entitled “We Build the Wall, Inc.”
The online campaign was launched by Kolfage on December 16, amid the standoff between the President and Congress over funds for the long-touted wall snaking the 2,000-mile frontier with Mexico. While not achieving the desired $1 billion, the GoFundMe campaign did amass roughly $20.3 million from some 340,000 donors in just a couple weeks.
“But I couldn’t move forward with all that money if I didn’t give people the option of getting a refund. We are still in the process of reaching out to every donor individually,” Kolfage explained. “We have contacted 71 percent of the donors. Of that 71 percent we have been able to contact, 94 percent are opting in to move their money forward.”
That means, according to Kolfage, “We Build the Wall, Inc.” has around $15 million it can put towards the wall.
If a GoFundMe donor does not want his or her money back, but wants the donation re-directed to the new nonprofit, they are instructed to proactively do so. If no action is taken by April 10 – a default setting of 90 days given that the campaign announced its money direction changes on January 11 – their funds will automatically be returned. Donations are continuing to trickle in – some $2 million – to the crowdfunding campaign, but those made after January 11 don’t have to opt-in.
GoFundMe did not respond to a request for comment.
The GoFundMe campaign instantly became a viral sensation, courting both cash and controversy. Kolfage’s “questionable past” running shuttered conspiracy theory websites was tossed into the spotlight and the motivations of his online wall operation blasted as bigoted. Comedian Jimmy Kimmel mocked the Trump supporters of the campaign as “dipping into their meth money for this.”
“That spurred a lot of hate,” the father-of-two said. “Death threats, liberals who were saying they were going to kill my children or that they were going to shoot up my house.”
Nonetheless, the Air Force veteran is far from deterred. Kolfage’s newly established nonprofit, which is not directly affiliated with the Trump administration and acknowledges that the federal government cannot accept its donor money at this time, claimed that landowners on the fringes of Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico are even giving them sections of property to commence construction.
“We are going to be building this wall. They are not leasing us the land, they are not selling us the land, they are just saying we can build it there for no cost,” he continued. “We are going to go into their property and build mile by mile.”
During a visit to border states last month, Kolfage claims several immigrants were easily entering the U.S through the porous areas where there was no security or protection presence. He noted that they intend to survey properties within the next two weeks, and will then submit building permits.
“Contractors have already lined up for the project and they want to donate a lot of their time and equipment,” Kolfage said.
President Trump has adamantly requested Congress allocate billions for a border wall, but having failed to secure such a deal, has persisted with attempting to acquire national emergency money in an ongoing battle with the Democrats and some members of the Republican party.
“Whatever happens, the emergency funding is not going to fund the entire border wall. We are going to supplement whatever they can’t do,” Kolfage says. “They (the government) (are) actively working in urban areas and we are focusing on these more rural areas where there are a lot of migrants coming through. We are going into these areas that are being overlooked.”
Nonetheless, Kolfage insists he can do it for far less than what the government is seeking.
“We think we can do it for about $900 million, right under a billion,” he said. “We are not working against the president. We are collaborating with his plan. Obviously, he is not going to be able to build the whole 2000 miles, it is not going to happen. But together we can accomplish more. If he can build 234, then we want to match that and build 234.”
Kolfage said that, to date, their largest donors have come from border states.
“They are from everywhere, but the biggest donors are surprisingly from California,” he pointed out. “Then Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and then from Florida. It’s Democrats and Republicans.”
The campaign revival comes at a time when the U.S. government is preparing for unprecedented numbers of migrants to cross the southern border either illegally or make a border asylum claim, a senior Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official told Fox News on Monday. It is being projected that the swell of migrants could reach up to 180,000 between March and May, reported the Wall Street Journal, more than three times the number recorded in the same time period last year.
A key part of their strategy, for the time being, is centered on “community engagement” rather than explicit fundraising.
“We aren’t really going to push it hard. We think once we start breaking ground it is going to start fundraising itself when people start seeing progress,” Kolfage observed. “If we can start making progress in a month or two, it will speak for itself and drive the process forward.”
The first “We Build the Wall” town hall is scheduled for Tuesday in Cincinnati, Ohio and the second in Detroit, Michigan – but the latter has not been without preliminary drama of its own. Kolfage said that he reached out to the Detroit Foundation Hotel last week to reserve 23 rooms for two nights to host the event leaders, they were enthusiastically offered a group deal of $186.00 per night as opposed to $250. But when he sent through the credit card authorization form along with the name list of high-profile attendees, he was informed by a hotel staffer that the group discount offer had been withdrawn.
The town halls will be led by Kolfage, as well as former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke. Angel mothers and parents who have lost their children due to crimes committed by illegal immigrants are also slated to attend.
“The Foundation Hotel apologizes that a position that does not reflect our policy was in any way represented to a potential guest and that an unauthorized decision to rescind a standing offer was made. We have taken necessary steps to resolve the situation,” a spokesperson for the hotel told Fox News.
Kolfage said that they will, in any case, be giving their money to different accommodations.
“We don’t want our food spat in,” he added.