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Ex-Trump advisor Steve Bannon will boost privately funded border wall at GV event

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Ex-Trump advisor Steve Bannon will boost privately funded border wall at GV event

  • Steve Bannon speaks during the Brian Terry Foundation event in Tucson in 2017.
    Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.comSteve Bannon speaks during the Brian Terry Foundation event in Tucson in 2017.

A conservative group on a quixotic crusade to build a border wall using private money is holding a town hall-style event in Green Valley Friday evening. 

The event, hosted by We Build The Wall, will include ousted Trump advisor Steven Bannon, along with former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo and Brian Kolfage, a triple-amputee Iraq War veteran who began a GoFundMe campaign with the aim of raising $1 billion to fund a border wall. 

Billed as a "Tucson town hall," the meeting will be held at the Quail Creek Country Club in Green Valley, Ariz. The free event was advertised as open to the public, but late Thursday the Quail Creek homeowners association began informing residents that only those with HOA ID cards would be allowed entry. Seating is on a first-come, first-seated basis. Doors will open at 6 p.m. and the event is slated to begin at 6:30 p.m. 

Kolfage — a former Southern Arizona resident who was once a supporter of Democrat Gabrielle Giffords in her run for Congress — launched a private a GoFundMe in December, called We the People We Build the Wall, with the idea to raise $1 billion in donations for a border wall, which would be handed over to the U.S. Treasury. Calling the border "porous," Kolfage said that he wanted to raise the money because " I refuse to allow our broken political system to leave my family and my country vulnerable to attack." 

Ultimately, the group raised $20.6 million from more than 325,000 donors, the group said. However, because the group was far short of its goal and Kolfage had changed the direction of the funding, switching from giving the money directly to the federal government to a private foundation, GoFundMe refunded the money. Kolfage told donors they could redirect their money a new "501(c)(4) non-profit Florida Corporation named "We Build the Wall, Inc." 

Along with Bannon, Tancredo, and Kolfage, the event will also include two Mesa-area residents who have become major supporters of Trump and the wall after their sons died in two separate incidents linked to immigrants in the country illegally. 

Mary Ann Mendoza became involved in the group "Angel Families" after her son, Sgt. Brian Mendoza, 32, was severely injured and later died, after a drunk driver crashed into his patrol car in 2014. 

Steve Ronnebeck became an "angel dad" after his 21-year-old son, Grant Ronnebeck, was shot and killed by a man facing deportation proceedings at a Mesa QuickTrip in 2016. 

Mendoza became linked to Trump during his 2016 campaign, and later she and Ronnebeck met with the president after he signed two executive orders on building the border wall and immigration enforcement in 2017, ABC15 reported. 

Ronnebeck also became heavily involved in the 2018 Republican primary for Arizona's open Senate seat, originally supporting Kelli Ward before switching to former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. 

The event is hosted by the Quail Creek Republican Club and Sergio Arellano, who made a bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva last year. 

Complications to plan

The group might find its efforts stymied, not only by fundraising problems, but rather the complicated reality of the border itself. 

Around 654 miles of barriers have already been built along the nearly 2,000-mile long U.S. border with Mexico, nearly one-third in Arizona alone. 

And, U.S. officials spent most of their efforts where the federal government had access to the land. However, about 67 percent of the border includes private land, almost all of it in Texas, requiring the group to not only plan for construction, but also gaining permission from private land owners, who have previously fought the federal government over land seizures.

The cost is also hard to define. From 2007 to 2015, CBP spent around $2.3 billion building 354 miles of primary pedestrian fencing, and around 300 miles of primary vehicle fencing. A single mile of pedestrian fencing—largely steel bollards 18 to 30 feet high—was around $6.5 million per mile, while vehicle was around $2 million per mile. 

Moreover, CBP estimated in 2009 that it will spend $3.5 billion over the next 20 years to maintain the current infrastructure. 

A new project to replace older pedestrian walls in Calexico, Tecate, and Andrade, Calif. is expected to cost $156 million for 11 miles of fencing, with another $88 million slated for "unawarded options." 

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