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

A Sunland Park, New Mexico spokesperson said We Build the Wall's permit application was incomplete when it was submitted and that site inspectors tried to visit the property, but were turned away.

A portion of the border wall near El Paso built by We Build The Wall, a private group that raised money through a GoFundMe account.
A portion of the border wall near El Paso built by We Build The Wall, a private group that raised money through a GoFundMe account.  Julian Aguilar/The Texas Tribune

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.

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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.

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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.