May 29, 2019 / 8:00 PM / 3 months ago

Private border wall construction halts after New Mexico town protests

TAOS, N.M. (Reuters) - A U.S. group building what it claims is the first private wall on the Mexican border wall on Wednesday said it had stopped construction after a New Mexico town ruled the project lacked necessary permits.

A new bollard-type wall is seen along the border of the private property using funds raised from a GoFundMe account, at Sunland Park, N.M., as seen from Ciudad Juarez Ciudad Juarez, Mexico May 29, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

Sunland Park, New Mexico, on Tuesday ordered We Build the Wall to stop erecting the steel barrier on private land in an area that the group calls “ground zero for illegal drugs, migrants and human sex slaves coming across.” Sunland Park is located in the southeast corner of New Mexico, on the Mexican border and about 9 miles northwest of El Paso, Texas.

The group on its website, in describing its mission, says: “If the Democrats won’t provide the funding for what the American people voted for in 2016 then we the people will.”

The group’s list of members of its advisory board and various committees and operations includes Erik Prince, the former Navy SEAL who founded the controversial private security firm Blackwater; former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach; and former Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo, among others. It has raised over $23 million on its gofundmepage and vowed to resume construction.

“We just stopped last night,” Kobach, the group’s general counsel, told Fox Business. “We’ll be providing some more information to the city this morning. We’re hoping to continue very soon.”

Around half a mile of the steel fence sprang up over the Memorial Day weekend on land owned by American Eagle Brick Co. The company’s owner, Jeff Allen, declined to comment.

The wall is being built to close a gap between fencing in the El Paso, Texas, section of the border that is popular with Central American families who have been entering the United States in record numbers to seek asylum.

The gap gained widespread attention after a paramilitary group released videos in April showing its members stopping hundreds of illegal border crossers.

Fisher Sand & Gravel, a North Dakota company that put forward proposals for Trump’s border wall, is building the 18-foot-high structure. Kobach said the project was 80 percent complete.

Sunland Park Mayor Javier Perea said the landowner submitted a building application but it was “incomplete” and the matter had been referred to the city’s municipal court.

“The city ordinance only allows a wall up to 6 feet tall and this far exceeds that,” Perea told reporters.

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, said the wall did nothing to enhance border security or deal with the humanitarian crisis on the border.

“To act as though throwing up a small section of wall on private land does anything to effectively secure our southern border from human- and drug-trafficking or address the humanitarian needs of the asylum seekers and local communities receiving them - that’s nonsense,” she said in a statement.

Reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Editing by Leslie Adler

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