Things That Matter

Congress Won’t Let Trump Build His Border Wall So A Group Of Citizens Spent $22 Million To Build An Illegal Wall In New Mexico

webuildthewall / Instagram

While Congress may have put a roadblock to President Trump’s proposed border wall, that hasn’t stopped a few from building their own barrier. An organization called We Build the Wall said that it built a half-mile wall at the border on private property in Sunland Park, New Mexico. The group raised millions of dollars in a GoFundMe campaign and says it’s just getting started on the project.

More than 300,000 people pitched in more than $20 million to fund money for the proposed barrier.

The project began last year when veteran Brian Kolfage started a campaign to get a border wall built with donations. The hope is the new project will help limit the flow of migrants trying to enter the United States near El Paso, which has seen a huge rise in illegal crossings.

Those that sit on the advisory board for We Build The Wall include Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and former White House adviser Steve Bannon.

“It’s amazing to me how crowdfunding can successfully raise a lot of money, and how many Americans care about this,” Kobach told CNN.

Jeff Allen owns the property where We Build the Wall’s team is working on the wall. He told CNN that the construction is long overdue after years of him trying to stop migrants crossing on his property.

“They are doing an incredible job,” he said. “I have fought illegals on this property for six years. I love my country, and this is a step in protecting my country.”

The project is already facing some problems from state and local leaders questioning its legality.

Elected leaders in New Mexico and Texas see the project as a publicity stunt to advance a political message. Javier Perea, the mayor of Sunland Park, issued a cease-and-desist order because the group failed to obtain the required permits for the project.

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

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham agrees with Perea that the construction of the wall comes with a personal agenda. She says this new barrier won’t do much to stop migrant families from entering the country.

“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.

The news comes a week after a federal judge ruled that the Trump administration can’t use federal emergency funds to build portions of the border wall.

In what has been a revolving story about funding for a new border wall, President Trump once again stopped by the courts. A federal judge granted an injunction this month stopping the Trump administration from redirecting funds for the wall using a national emergency declaration.

For now, it seems like U.S citizens will be ones trying to put together a new border wall while things get sorted out in court. The group wants to start construction on a second wall but there is no timetable or update if they will be legally allowed to do so.

READ: Supreme Court Agrees To Decide If Border Patrol Agents Can Kill Kids In Other Countries

New Report Confirms That Trump’s Border Wall Is Jeopardizing Native American History And Sensitive Environments

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New Report Confirms That Trump’s Border Wall Is Jeopardizing Native American History And Sensitive Environments

Agh! Every time we read or hear the words “Border Wall” our stomach ties up in a knot and we whisper “Y ahora qué se trae este pinche gringo?”. But well, being aware of the repercussions that the Border Wall could have is part of being socially and civically responsible. Being informed is what makes us make better choices when it comes to politics, and next year is a preeeeetty big year when it comes to deciding what the future holds not only for the United States, but for the world at large.  

The Trump Border Wall is just the “gift” that keeps on giving, isn’t it?

Credit: Giphy. @luisprado-0557

We have all discussed the impact that the proposed Border Wall (which seems very close to becoming a reality, particularly if Trump wants to secure a second term by appealing to his core voters) could have on social, cultural and political terms. We know that it will make an already tense border situation even worse, and that the US vs THEM mentality that some hold could get even uglier. This, of course, can lead to further instances if vitriolic racism and violence (vigilante groups will feel vindicated). But as the months go by and the Border Wall seems to become a reality, new findings are discovering its impact in other spheres… 

22 archeological sites in Arizona could be decimated by the Border Wall

Credit: Instagram. @aztassociation

The Border Wall will be constructed right through the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona. The National Park Service commissioned a report to assess the impact that the construction could have on 22 archeological sites in the Park. And the results are alarming. 

The Roosevelt Reservation would be particularly impacted.

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And the threat is imminent. Contractors have basically set shop and started to build fences around the place. The exact extent of the building plans have not been disclosed, not even to National Park authorities. As Andrew Veech, a member of the National Park Service’s Intermountain Region Archaeology Program, wrote in the report: “Precise design plans for this expanded border infrastructure have been left to the discretion of the contractors, and no details about the building project(s) have been furnished to the National Park Service”. This is just plain wrong, as any efforts to preempt potential problems are impossible. This area is tricky, as it is made up from federal, state, tribal, and private lands. 

The past is being erased.

Credit: Instagram. @pnolbert

The National Park holds invaluable archeological assets left behind by the original indigenous owners of the land. As the Tucson Sentinel reports: “One site located near the Sonoyta River includes artifacts scattered throughout, including dozens of stone artifacts, stone fragments, a “hammerstone,” pieces of broken pots known as sherds, as well as shells presumably from the Gulf of California that were probably used during the Hohokam Period, between 1150 to 1400″. Researchers are still putting the pieces together to unearth the particularities of the human groups that first inhabited what is now the United States-Mexico border, which is key for the identity of a cultural formation. Archeologists argue that these 22 sites yield important information about Native-American populations before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores. 

And the Border Wall will also have an environmental impact.

Credit: Instagram. @arizonasfamily

Geopolitical borders are a human construct, so flora and fauna don’t really care where a country starts and another ends. This is why the environmental impact of a monstrous Border Wall would be nothing short of apocalyptic for Arizonian environment and indigenous communities. As reported by The New York Times: “The unearthing of the area surrounding the barriers and the installation of lights on the wall will devastate wildlife and contaminate cultural lands”. The scenario is dire for animal and plant species in the area, as a former worker of the National Park told NYT: “‘The lights that will be installed on top of the wall, blasted into the wilderness, the ground water being sucked up — it’s more than just a border wall. All of these activities will just increase the desertification of the region”. Just look at the beauty of this landscape, the millenary cacti, the shrubs sucking up water to survive: are we really willing for it all to just become a wasteland?

Trump’s wall would also decimate indigenous populations in Arizona.

Credit: Instagram. @oodhampodcaster

Let us not forget that this area, as happens with long stretches of the border, has been home to Native-Americans for centuries. But their future is at stake. As The New York Times states: “The Organ Pipe Cactus Monument is sandwiched between the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and the Tohono O’odham Reservation. Leaders of the Tohono O’odham say the border wall would virtually split the indigenous community in half”. And really, is there anyone more American than the very first, original Americans?

Some People Claim This Sandy Hook PSA Has Gone “Too Far” In Illustrating the Impact of School Shootings

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Some People Claim This Sandy Hook PSA Has Gone “Too Far” In Illustrating the Impact of School Shootings

We’ve come to the point in American history where deaths due to gun violence have become what many would call a crisis. According to data collected by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2017, guns were responsible for more deaths than car accidents were. So it comes to no surprise when certain activists take it upon themselves to bring attention to what many label an epidemic. On Wednesday, the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation, a non-profit organization founded with the goal of “protecting children from gun violence with programs that work”, did just that. The NPO released a short video, titled “Back-To-School-Essentials” that made waves through the internet.

The video begins exactly the way so many back-to-school commercials start: discussing the coolest new gadgets to buy for your kids this Fall.

Sandy Hook Promise / Youtube.com

A smiling boy pulls a backpack out of a locker, bragging that his mom got him the “perfect bag for back to school”. A young girl shows off the colorful binders that are “just what she needs to help her stay organized” for the school year. But things take an odd turn with the third student. As the student describes his headphones as “just what [he] needs for studying”, we can see that not all is quite right in the background. As the boy listens to his music, oblivious, we see students running in the behind him, appearing to be panicked.

As the commercial wears on, it becomes even eerier when students are speaking carefree to the camera while scenes of carnage unfold around them. The commercial wears on with each scenario becoming eerier: a girl uses her sweater to bar a door shut, keeping an active shooter out of the gymnasium. A different student uses her new socks as a tourniquet to keep a bleeding student alive. The video ends on a chilling note: a young girl hides in a bathroom stall, tears running down her face. The camera closes up on her as we hear an active shooter enter the bathroom. “I love you, Mom,” she types into her phone.

The video ends with a simple title-card over a black screen: “School shooting is preventable when you know the signs.”

Sandy Hook Promise / Youtube.com

The PSA then directs the viewer to find out more about the organization at sandyhookpromise.org. According to Sandy Hook Promise’s About page, the “above-the-politics” organization is made up of “several family members whose loved ones were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012”. Their mission is to “honor all victims of gun violence by turning our tragedy into a moment of transformation”. Their main action-items are to target mental health programs to individuals who are “at-risk” at engaging in gun violence and by advocating for policy changes in order to prevent school shootings. 

As of now, the video has racked up over 1 million views on YouTube in under 24 hours.

The virality of the PSA is likely due to its execution: we’re all used to seeing vacuous back-to-school commercials whose sole intentions are to sell us something. “Back-To-School Essentials” lulls us into a sense of comfort with its upbeat music before jerking us into the current violent reality of school-aged students’ lives. According to the Gun Violence Archive, which tracks every mass shooting in the country, the US has had 283 mass shootings since September 1st of 2019. 

The video isn’t without controversy–some Twitter users are disturbed by how close to home the video’s scenarios are.

In fact, many viewers are finding the PSA hard to watch. On Twitter, users are complaining of tearing up after watching the video. Some even claim to “feeling sick” by the video’s contents. 

In response, some Twitter users are glad of the reality-check the PSA is providing:

It’s evident that making their audience uncomfortable from watching the video was one of the organization’s goals. That way, it makes it harder to ignore the reality of school shootings and their impact on children’s lives.

This woman explained how the video hit a little too close to home:

It seems we’ve come to the point in our culture where we feel we need to buy phones for our children in the event that they experience a school shooting. 

This Twitter user applauded the Sandy Hook Promise Organization’s bravery in committing to their message:

Sometimes the only way to get your point across is to explain, in the starkest terms possible, how dire the situation is. This video managed to convey that in a powerful way.

This Latina was effected by the PSA on a visceral level:

Reactions like this prove that public service announcements, when done right, can achieve exactly what they set out to achieve.

Simply from the Twitter reaction, it’s clear that this video has touched a lot of people.

To learn more about Sandy Hook Promise and its mission to prevent gun violence, visit www.sandyhookpromise.org.