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Construction of private border wall resumes

Leaders of the We Build the Wall organization discuss plans for future barrier construction along the Mexican border during a news conference on Thursday in Sunland Park. (Cedar Attanasio/Associated Press)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

SUNLAND PARK – Construction resumed on a private border wall in New Mexico after the We Build the Wall organization agreed to provide the city with the necessary information to complete the permitting process.

“I really want to applaud the hard work of Sunland Park city officials in the last 36 hours in clarifying any issues, and that’s why we’re back at work and that’s why the machines are running,” said Kris Kobach, general counsel for We Build the Wall, on Thursday.

The city issued a stop work order Tuesday because the owner of the property, American Eagle Brick company, did not have an approved building permit for the $6 million wall.

During a news conference at city hall Thursday, the mayor said two permits were issued “prematurely by staff” after a discussion with the property owner and builder.

“They have been given building permits for the lights and the fence. We’ll have to circle back and make sure they are meeting all standards from both the city and the state,” Sunland Park Mayor Javier Perea said.

Originally the mayor said the barrier may have violated a city code that limits walls to six feet tall. But since the wall is on commercial property, the city determined the structure could be up to 36 feet tall.

The private wall is 18 feet tall and about half a mile long. The company still needs a grading permit for the road it built and a drainage plan.

As Sunland Park worked to quickly resolve the building permit issues, city hall was flooded Wednesday with calls from wall supporters, many from out of town.

Others took to social media to post messages, and the mayor said he had 5,000 emails in his inbox.

While he said some wall supporters were “polite and friendly,” others used profanity and racial slurs. There were also multiple death threats.

“There have been attacks to both me and my family with threats to coming down and shooting us all. It is concerning. It is alarming,” the mayor said.

He has police protection because of the threats and said it is a burden for a small town with limited resources.

During the news conference, a former mayor pro tem and city council member, Isabel Santos, told Perea she is proud of him for enforcing city codes.

“These men, because they have money, believe they can do whatever they want. And they have to respect us. Thank you, mayor. And I assure you I’m speaking for many people in Sunland Park who are proud of you,” Santos said.

The We Build the Wall team also expressed pride at a news conference, where they celebrated in the shadow of their towering structure.

“This wall is not about stopping immigration. This wall is about legal immigration. We want people to use the front door, come to this country legally,” said We Build the Wall founder Brian Koflage. The Air Force veteran and triple amputee raised more than $20 million in private donations through a crowdfunding campaign.

A rally at the “people’s wall” was announced for Thursday on the We Build the Wall website, but organizers canceled it. Former presidential adviser Steve Bannon was also scheduled to make an appearance at the wall but did not attend.

Relatives of people killed by illegal immigrants were on hand for the “unveiling” of the border wall, which is nearly complete.

Among them were the mothers of Mesa, Ariz., police sergeant Tommy Mendoza, who was killed in 2015, and Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, who was killed in 2010 near Rio Rico, Ariz.

“This isn’t a Republican or Democrat thing, this is an American thing. This is for our agents,” said Tommy Fisher, CEO of Fisher Industries.

Fisher Industries built the half mile stretch of wall in less than a week and is among companies that submitted a prototype to President Donald Trump for his wall.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued its first public statement about the private wall on Thursday.

“We encourage all interested vendors to compete for border barrier contracts through established mechanisms to ensure any construction is carried out under relevant federal authorities and meets USBP (Border Patrol) operational requirements for border barrier,” according to a CBP spokesman.

The We Build the Wall organization said it is looking at 10 other projects on the border.

“It should bring a feeling of security to anybody who lives in a southern state,” said Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin, who attended the unveiling ceremony.

“These folks didn’t wait for the government to take care of them. They stepped up and took measures into their own hands. It’s what we as Americans should be willing to do,” Griffin said.

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