The viral crowdfunding effort to construct a wall on the southern border aimed at deterring immigrants from crossing illegally was only recently completed, but on Monday the newly-installed wall suffered a major setback — a large gate built into the barrier was ordered open indefinitely by officials.
The controversial half-mile wall built along the US-Mexico border near Sunland Park, New Mexico, was constructed earlier this month after raising more than $20 million on GoFundMe, the online crowdfunding site. But We Build The Wall organizers failed to obtain required authorization to build the barrier on federal land, cutting off access to waterways and a public monument.
“This is normally done well in advance of a construction project, said Lori Kuczmanski, a spokesperson for the International Boundary and Water Commission, the agency that addresses waterway issues between the US and Mexico. “They think they can build now and ask questions later, and that’s not how it works.”
In response, IBWC officials on Monday afternoon propped open a large gate installed in the wall. The gate, constructed on roughly 33 feet of federal property, had blocked officials from accessing a levee and dam, and cutting off public access to a monument known as Monument One, the first in a series of obelisks that mark the US-Mexico border from El Paso to Tijuana.
“We’re going to lock it in an open position until we come into a mutual decision on how this gate is going to operate,” Kuczmanski continued.
The decision prompted a series of angry tweets from We Build The Wall founder Brian Kolfage, who claimed that “Mexico just opened all gates” through IBWC for a “mass invasion.”
Water agency officials, however, said We Build The Wall organizers went forward with construction of the fence without turning in the proper paperwork for the barrier.
Kuczmanski said the agency was aware the wall was being built near federal property but had been told the project would remain on private land. Then on June 2, We Build The Wall organizers submitted a letter and “a couple of drawings” requesting to build a gate across federal property.
“It was not a complete application packet,” she said.
The next day, IBWC officials learned that We Build The Wall’s construction crew had already poured a cement slab on federal property. The gate was immediately shut upon completion, Kuczmanski said, cutting off access for the agency, its security agents who patrol the area, and the public.
IBWC officials asked that the gate be left open, she said, but attorneys for the We Build The Wall project told the agency that “‘it will be handled immediately,’ but it was never opened.”
A representative from We Build The Wall did not immediately return BuzzFeed News requests for comment.
“This is policy and procedure, and you don’t just come into our property and build first,” Kuczmanski said. “We’re treating them the same we treat anybody else.”
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