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Home | Tag Archives: build that wall

Tag Archives: build that wall

Border wall on private land near El Paso lacks necessary permits, local officials say

SUNLAND PARK, N.M. — The organization that raised millions of dollars to construct a border barrier on private land over the Memorial Day weekend will be issued a cease-and-desist letter due to a lack of permits needed for the project, a spokesperson for the city of Sunland Park, said Tuesday.

The group, We Build the Wall, used millions raised from a GoFundMe page to fund construction of about a half-mile barrier near the Texas-New Mexico state line across from Mexico. The site is on land owned by American Eagle Brick Co. and is just a few miles from downtown El Paso and the University of Texas at El Paso. The site is in the U.S. Border Patrol’s El Paso sector.

“The city has not provided any permits, it has not approved of the construction that has gone up already,” city spokesperson Peter Ibardo told The Texas Tribune on Tuesday. “They built the structure without authority or any building permits from the city.”

Ibardo added that there were no site plans or recent surveys submitted to the city.

Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon are listed on the group’s website as part of the leadership team. Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage started the organization.

When asked at the site Tuesday about the permitting process, Kobach said the owner of the land went through the permitting process and that “official inspectors were on the property” before construction began. He said that the group hoped the project would be finished by late Tuesday or Wednesday.

But Ibardo later said the permit was only picked up Friday before the long holiday weekend, was incomplete when it was submitted and that site inspectors tried to visit the property last week but were turned away.

Kobach said construction for the project cost between $6 and $8 million and began late Friday. The group had raised more than $20 million as of Monday. Kobach said the site was kept a secret to avoid protests and said the group was looking to expand its project to other parts of the border, including California and Texas.

Ibardo said a timeline on when the situation could be resolved is unclear but that the project will be treated like any other that needs city approval.

“There are a lot of moving pieces to this, it caught everyone off guard,” he said.

He added that it’s unclear if the International Water and Boundary Commission, which oversees water and boundary issues between the United States and Mexico was made aware of the construction. We Build The Wall did not immediately respond to a request for comment later Tuesday afternoon.

Read related Tribune coverage

Author:  JULIÁN AGUILARThe Texas Tribune

Toddler apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border dies in El Paso after weeks in hospital

A 2½-year-old Guatemalan boy apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border died Tuesday night in El Paso after several weeks in the hospital, according to the Guatemalan Consulate and another person with direct knowledge of the case.

The boy, who was not identified, arrived at the border with his mother days after now-acting homeland security secretary Kevin McAleenan held a news conference near a crowded holding facility in El Paso on March 27 to warn that a surge of Central Americans was pushing the system to the “breaking point.”

The boy is the fourth migrant child to die since December after being apprehended at the southern border and taken to the hospital. All have been from Guatemala, a Central American nation experiencing severe drought and poverty, and where smugglers have been offering discounted trips to families traveling to the United States.

Record numbers of families from Guatemala and other northern Central American countries are surrendering at the border and seeking asylum, with nearly 100,000 crossing in April, the highest monthly total in a decade. The White House has asked Congress for $4.5 billion in aid and increased enforcement, saying the influx is risking lives, while advocates for immigrants have raised concern about health and safety conditions in cramped federal holding facilities.

The Washington Post confirmed the death with two sources, including Guatemala’s Consul Tekandi Paniagua, who covers the El Paso area. Another source confirmed the death on the condition of anonymity.

Paniagua said the boy, who had spent three days in federal custody, appeared to have developed a form of pneumonia, but the death remains under investigation. The El Paso medical examiner’s office and the hospital declined to comment.

It is unclear when the boy fell ill. A Customs and Border Protection official familiar with the case, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the CBP apprehended the boy and his mother on April 3 near the Paso Del Norte Bridge.

On April 6, the official said, his mother alerted agents that he was sick. An ambulance took him to Providence Hospital in Horizon City that day, and officials transferred him the next day to Providence Children’s Hospital in El Paso.

On April 8, federal officials formally released the family from Border Protection custody with a “notice to appear” in immigration court.

CBP officials are required to notify Congress of a death in custody within 24 hours, and it was not immediately clear whether officials would do that when The Washington Post inquired about the death because the boy had been released from custody.

Later, an official said they would notify lawmakers.

After two Guatemalan children died in December, Homeland Security officials expanded care for children at the border. They have required health screenings of all children in custody and deployed scores of medics and equipment to the border to quickly triage new arrivals, some arriving in groups of 300 at a time.

Hundreds of people have been taken to the hospital. Some have arrived with preexisting health concerns, including influenza and liver disease.

Two weeks ago, U.S. border agents along the Rio Grande recovered the body of a 10-month-old boy after his family’s raft capsized while crossing the river near Eagle Pass.

On April 30, a 16-year-old unaccompanied minor from the southeastern state of Chiquimula suffered a severe brain infection and died after several days in federal custody. He had been apprehended more than a week earlier and transferred to a Health and Human Services shelter. His was the first known death in HHS custody.

In December, two young Guatemalan children died after being apprehended by CBP. Felipe Gomez Alonzo, 8, died of complications from influenza B infection, and Jakelin Caal, 7, died from a bacterial infection.

Among the worst crowding is in the El Paso sector, where on March 27 agents held almost 3,500 migrants in custody, well above capacity, and some families were held under a bridge.

Paniagua said the consulate has warned families in Guatemala that the trip is risky.

“We have reiterated the message that trips to the United States, in the condition in which the Guatemalan families are undertaking them, is highly dangerous,” Paniagua said in a statement. “We’ve seen four cases in a row of children who have lost their lives in this way.”

Read related Tribune coverage


Trump White House doubles down on threat to close U.S.-Mexico border

It would take “something dramatic” in the coming days to persuade President Trump not to close the U.S.-Mexico border, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday, and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said the president’s threat “certainly isn’t a bluff.”

The two senior staffers, appearing separately on Sunday morning talk shows, also reiterated the administration’s intention to cut off hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance — including programs designed to curb gang violence — to the “Northern Triangle” countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Those countries are the primary source of tens of thousands of migrants, including caravans of families with children, who have been presenting themselves at ports of entry and asking for political asylum in an escalating humanitarian crisis at the border.

“Democrats didn’t believe us a month ago, two months ago when we said what was happening at the border was a crisis, a humanitarian crisis, a security crisis,” Mulvaney said on ABC News’s “This Week.” He said the administration is talking about closing the border because “we need the people from the ports of entry to go out and patrol in the desert, where we don’t have any wall.”

He also called on the Mexican government to solidify its southern border and said Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador need to do more to prevent their citizens from entering Mexico. If they cannot do that, he said, “it makes very little sense for us to continue to send them aid.”

Conway, appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” pushed back against the notion that cutting aid to those countries would make matters worse. “The conditions are already awful,” she said. “The executive branch has done so much to try to mitigate these awful circumstances, and we need to send a message back to these countries, too.”

Closing the border is a drastic measure that would have immediate consequences not only for families seeking asylum but also for trade and commerce between the United States and Mexico. Mexico is the third-largest trading partner of the United States, with more than $611 billion in cross-border trade last year, according to the Commerce Department. At the port of Calexico East, Calif., more than 1,000 trucks cross the border each day. Laredo, Tex., sees more than 11 trains each day transit the border, according to the U.S. Transportation Department.

If the border closure applied to goods and vehicles as well as people, the economic consequences would be immediate and severe, with automakers and American farmers among the first to feel the pain, according to trade specialists.

“It’s unworkable and unrealistic, and I don’t think he could really do it,” Rufus Yerxa, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, which represents multinational corporations, said Sunday.

Suddenly closing the flow of people and goods between the United States and Mexico would interrupt the flow of parts headed to American factories, which could bring some production to a halt. Likewise, refrigerated trucks full of beef and other perishable commodities would jam border crossings.

“The first question would be: Where do you put it?” said William Reinsch, a former Commerce Department official. “Stuff is going to stack up at the border because it’s already on the way there.”

To deal with “an unprecedented humanitarian and border security crisis all along our Southwest border,” the agency said it had redeployed 750 border agents.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), appearing on NBC News’s “Meet the Press,” said, “When the president says he’s going to close the border, that is a totally unrealistic boast on his part. What we need to do is focus on what’s happening in Central America.”

Durbin said the government needs to prioritize the humanitarian crisis unfolding along the U.S.-Mexico border:

“The first thing we need to do is meet the humanitarian needs at the border instead of building fences two or three years in the future by taking money from Department of Defense, focus on facilities to serve these families so that there aren’t children who are hurt and dying as a result of this situation.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a 2020 presidential candidate, said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation” that there is a “terrible humanitarian crisis” at the border and that the United States needs comprehensive immigration reform. He added, “We need to make sure that our borders are secure, but also we need a humane policy at the border in which we are not yanking tiny children from the arms of their mothers.”

Trump took to Twitter on Saturday to implore Mexico to “stop the many thousands of people trying to get into the USA.” He wrote: “Our detention areas are maxed out & we will take no more illegals. Next step is to close the Border! This will also help us with stopping the Drug flow from Mexico!”

The president told reporters on Friday, “If they don’t stop them, we are closing the border. We’ll close it. And we’ll keep it closed for a long time. I’m not playing games.”

Under U.S. law, people who reach the U.S. border are entitled to request asylum. But in recent months, the number of arrivals has spiked and is now at about 100,000 people a month. This has overwhelmed the system. The immigration courts have backlogs of hundreds of thousands of cases.

There is profound partisan disagreement over how to handle it. Trump continues to press for a border wall and wants to take money from military projects to build new barriers. Democrats have pushed for facilities to handle incoming families and have excoriated the Trump administration for separating migrant children from their parents under a now-rescinded policy.

Mexico’s leftist government has addressed the migrant caravans by offering thousands of short-term humanitarian visas allowing migrants to live and work in the country. In a remarkable concession, it agreed to a Trump administration request to host migrants who are undergoing U.S. asylum proceedings, a controversial program dubbed “Remain in Mexico.”

So far this year, Mexico has deported roughly 25,000 Central Americans, according to its immigration agency. Earlier this week, Mexico deported 66 Cubans who were planning to join a migrant caravan traveling to the United States. Between 2015 and 2018, Mexico deported 436,125 Central Americans, many of them on their way to the United States.

Jim Nealon, a former U.S. ambassador to Honduras, said Trump didn’t seem to understand that Central American countries were already working with the United States to discourage the flow of migrants.

“But they can’t prevent their citizens from leaving their countries any more than [Trump] can prevent citizens from leaving the U.S.,” Nealon said.

Sheridan reported from Mexico City. Nick Miroff in Washington and Kevin Sieff in Mexico City contributed to this report.


Op-Ed: Dear Sarah…

Dear Sarah,

You recently asked the country to inquire about El Paso’s feelings of the worthiness of a wall between us and our sister city, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. As you know, a stronger, taller and longer fence (not wall) was erected in the place of the existing border fencing in the past decade, of which FBI statistics corroborate drops in property crime, drug trafficking and even some violent crimes.

It’s very easy to say the wall is a direct result of being a safe city, especially when you can pick from ‘safest city in the country’ headlines year after year, given safety and ‘America First’ standards are among some of President Trump’s priorities.

After all, “Mexico is not our friend” because they’re “bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” And yes, some are “good people,” assumptively. But a wall would be the perfect solution to protecting America from one of our “enemies” who are continually “ripping off the U.S.” and whose cartels use the border like a “vacuum cleaner, sucking drugs and death right into the U.S.”

This is all agreeable, Ms. Sarah, completely true in the Trump World. That Trump World you’re in, where most, if not all media exposure is “fake news”, or grabbing women by the pussy is laughable locker room talk that “never happened” and everyone is out for the administration’s blood.

Trump World may be your world, and that’s your American right to choose, but please remember that there are over 7.4 billion others living in what we call, the real world.

Thankfully, you were kind enough to inquire about our opinions, and perhaps some real-world insight can better balance the alternative facts weighing into the decision of further dividing us from our beloved neighbor.

It seems that even your own Chief of Staff John Kelly may have peeked his head out of the Trump delusion. During his Wednesday meeting with Congressional Hispanic Caucus he said President Trump was “uninformed” in his promises for a huge Mexico-funded wall across the entire border.

Based on your reliance on a New York Post article conveniently summing up the need for this wall on the sole weight of a 3-year statistical comparison, as a native El Pasoan, I must say that you too, are uninformed. Let me kindly explain why.

Judging from this week’s 1st Annual Fake News Awards, it’s clear that fake news is a problematic strain for Trump devotees and the administration. I could not agree more, that smearing the integrity of an institution founded on truth is beyond foul, even dangerous to the American democracy.

Who dare publish –or even endorse– any information dripping with deception and even worse, the manipulative cheapening of the core context that makes a story valuable! Holes in a story collapse the argument on which it’s founded, though cunning language can still sway the reader toward the writer’s favored position and agenda.

As you well know, Sarah, non-objectivity in straight news is cancer to it’s foundation. If anyone is going to present the truth, particularly influential leaders, only the full truth can hold any value of integrity and reliability. I hope that with this letter, you can better understand the holes that drain credibility and reason from the claims that a $20 billion security symbol would help us El Pasoans sleep better at night.

It’s true, that perhaps the latest addition of the fence did reduce property crime significantly and there’s even been a slight drop in violent crime since construction completed. As your New York Post reference states, drug trafficking seizures have gone down, and illegal entry has significantly dropped. But that’s just the FOX News Channel of the big picture.

The border’s fence upgrades are not the reason El Paso ranks so safe, as much of the current propaganda suggests.

My hometown proudly holds the title among cities having the lowest crime rankings in the country for its size, even leading as the lowest ranked in some years, according to FBI Uniform Crime Reporting numbers. I must make you aware that this representation has been a decades-long status existent long before any additional fencing was added to the border, so it cannot and should not be fully attributed to our city’s safety.

When contemplating this heavy price tag, perhaps it makes some sense to consider alternative factors of effectiveness that may be more worthy of such a large investment? Even a tiny fraction of $20 billion for our border community would generate of tsunami of improvements that go even beyond your safety and security priority.

The Wall Won’t Create Any Drug Traffic Jams

I’m not convinced, and I can bet the Drug Enforcement Agency is iffy, that throwing billions at a southern border wall would reduce the instances of drug smugglers coming in from Mexico. Smugglers prefer deep (like, hundreds of feet deep) underground tunnels, not running across miles of fenceless open desert, infested with La Migra.

And unless your wall reaches cloud-like levels, it will do little to deter the drones and small aircraft these smugglers are using to deliver their goods. You also have those pesky bridge-crossing mules, stuffing their tires, shoes, gas tanks, fajas, tamales, semi-trucks and anything under the Sun City sunshine worthy of unsuspicious secret compartments, making their way across and into the faces of our very own law enforcement.

Some get caught. Many don’t. But a border wall isn’t their challenge – they’re more worried about acting cool with heroin duct-taped to their thighs as they hide in the swarms of thousands legally crossing the bridge daily.

And yes, some of them are actually American-born, not Mexican immigrants.

If drugs are what you’re worried about, there’s more we can do as a country with the demand side of it rather than the resistance by way of the wall. A proactive vs. reactive approach to addiction would be more sustainable and beneficial to the American quality of life than a multibillion dollar heap of metal. Say, isn’t there an opioid crisis your administration is trying to tackle?

I wonder how much of the cartel business –and border smuggling– would cripple if the Trump era managed to gain control of the deadliest drug crisis in American history? One could only wonder how the legalization of marijuana has depleted the dollar signs of the black market weed trade, one American state at a time.

Maybe you can explain to Don, that the ball is in our court –er, green, within a 5-foot radius to the hole, and there’s a good chance at an eagle when it comes to securing our border while single-handedly wiping out an epidemic and injecting more green to the successful multi-billion dollar marijuana industry.

El Paso has several potential drug treatment centers that would prosper from a financial boost to achieve their mission for addict recovery. A social disease is cured not by covering up the symptoms, rather healing the origin of the damage.

A stronger focus on the internal health of our community manifests a more sustainable solution than any size wall could attain in its attempts to block the transportation of the infective catalysts.

Pull the plug on recidivism costs.

Given your stance on safety, your team has (hopefully) pored over criminal statistics in border towns, with a close eye on patterns and demographics within each community.

In your research, you may have learned that the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition aims to increase public safety through the reduction on recidivism, as repeat offenders are expensive. They emphasize the need to create stronger families, less tax-payer waste and safer communities.

Seemingly, that aligns well with your Make America Great Again mantra and more specifically, the President’s platform for building this wall.

I must repeat: crime in El Paso existed before the latest fence, and continued to exist after the fence. Sure, we saw a drop in property crime, but violent crime is still a bigger threat to our safety, and murder rates actually went up in 2014.

Of note, it’s not illegal immigrants shooting up those numbers. Putting away the bad guys is one mission in the disciplining of our society, but should we not consider a stronger push for the rehabilitation of those with potential to contribute back to society when given the chance?

Slashing prison occupancy and processing costs by investing in the reintegration of inmates surely goes beyond the effectiveness of crime reduction via wall erection by dealing with the source directly. Addressing the border crimes committed by Americans with the concept of restorative justice and proper guidance can promote a potential generational impact in reversing a costly drain on the community.

Drain the… desert.

I am confident the administration is performing its due diligence to wholly understand the needs of border security, assessing technology and the workforce, and conducting the necessary visits and tours to get a true grip on the topic. My question is, will there be (or has there been) an in-depth federal evaluation on internal corruption?

Because not even a billion-dollar wall would effectively withstand the cracks of immorality amongst American government employees. Protection from bad hombres would be obsolete if there are English-speaking ones in uniform crossing the line with bribes.

Your war against the crimes you intend to protect us from has occasionally been propelled by your own soldiers. In no way am I suggesting or attempting to discredit the honorable dedication of our border force majority, but the revelations in corruption exist, and it’s a threat, albeit minor, that needs to be examined in the name of billions.

The Big Picture

I don’t claim expertise in any of the subjects mentioned above because my tax dollars pay for my leaders to be the experts on all fronts when making multi-billion dollar decisions.

Whether it’s us or Mexico that pays for hundreds of miles of fencing on the southern border, the impact will be felt where I live, amongst my family, friends and neighbors. As citizens we deserve to be confident that our government is dissecting all aspects of this initiative.

This isn’t a weight to be solely slammed on the immigration debate. This isn’t just an eyesore to save the tax dollars wasted on illegal immigrants through law enforcement, welfare, healthcare, education and whatnot.

If there is illness on the border, a $20-billion dollar band-aid idea born on an impulsive campaign whim is not the path to community health. We must run tests, undergo thorough assessments and dissect all symptoms before diagnosing or providing any remedy involving several populations.

Sarah, I applaud your public inquiry to ask El Paso. Who better to educate in the reality of border living than the natives themselves. Immerse the real-life insight of the people with true expert analysis as a working democracy would, before making permanent, costly decisions that risk standing as a symbol of bad leadership in American history.

It’s important to understand that El Paso, historically Paso Del Norte, translates to “The Pass” in which Spanish explorers traveled north from Mexico. For those of us whose bare feet have walked the El Paso earth since birth, it’s a community known and felt to be an international embrace more than the political divide portrayed in recent news.

When we think of the sense of safety we feel in our home, we don’t think of a wall. We immerse ourselves in the bond that makes El Paso-Juarez border what it is: Family.

I won’t be the only one you’ll be receiving letters from in the near future. I am just one voice in millions of the border with native insight worth listening to.

I invite El Pasoans and anyone living on the border to begin the #DearSarah dialogue you’ve publicly requested. Optimistically, you’ll hear from experts, primos, professors, economists and countless others to weigh in on a subject in desperate need of a border voice.

With Respect,

Bianca Delilah Cervantes


To submit your ‘Letter to the Editor’ or similar #DearSarah op-ed piece for consideration, email us at

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