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Customs and Border Protection workers donated to We Build Wall GoFundMe

In late 2018, an online GoFundMe company exploded, raising millions in support of then-President Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall along the US-Mexico border. We Build the Wall, started by disabled veteran Brian Kolfage, has been extremely popular, receiving at least $25 million in donations to the project.

It was a fundraiser supported at least in part by someone at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), who donated to GoFundMe, according to emails Daily Dot received through a public records request.

CBP, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, is tasked with enforcing immigration and protecting the US border. It came under fire after Kolfage claimed he had been in contact with the agency about his private endeavor to build part of the border wall, with allegations that a government agency was supporting a partisan unit.

We Build the Wall added pro-Trump immigrant hawks like Steve Bannon and Kris Kobach to its board as the scope and size grew. However, the fundraiser eventually ended in indictments, guilty pleas and presidential pardons after it was discovered Kolfage and Bannon had embezzled the money.

The plan to build a wall came after Trump supporters became frustrated that his efforts were routinely obstructed by both Congress and the courts. GoFundMe started with an explicitly partisan bias, stating that if each of the people who voted for Trump donated $80, they would have the $5 billion it would take to end what Kolfage called the “Trump Wall” that the President was only able to get going with great difficulty.

Eventually, the group managed to erect a section of fence on private land, which became public knowledge in May.

In response to many media inquiries that came as the story grew and video of the border wall being built on private property went viral, the CBP’s common refrain was that it was a private project and was “not affiliated with our efforts.”

But according to emails released by CBP to the Daily Dot, someone at the agency appears to have funded the project when it started going viral. Three images from emails from GoFundMe appear in the documents. Though the recipient’s name has been redacted — since the documents shared with Daily Dot were for a Border Patrol employee’s communication that included the phrase “We Build the Wall” — the GoFundMe emails were likely sent to an address of someone inside sent by CBP, indicating a donation has taken place.

On January 31, 2019, the email asked the donor to confirm they still wanted to use their money for the Wall effort.

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This email appears to coincide with news that GoFundMe required Kolfage to ask all of its donors if they would like their money to continue supporting the project, after the group subsequently re-identified as a 501(c)(4) Charity established had first success.

A follow-up email in February asked the same question.

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In March, everyone who initially donated money appeared to be OK with their first donation going to We Build the Wall, stating that the money then officially went to the organization: “Thank you for confirming that They want your donation to go to We Build the Wall Wand, Inc.”

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It is not known if anyone at CBP donated to the cause, perhaps to oversee GoFundMe, or if anyone at CBP believed in the far-right organization and its anti-immigrant stance.

Other thousands of emails published to the Daily Dot point to a sympathetic bias toward We Build the Wall as officials tried to break the news of a July 2019 symposium — attended by Donald Trump Jr. — on the Keep Wall under wraps to prevent anti-Wall protesters from showing up.

Border Patrol officials suggested in emails that they would help “with security” and that they should “keep a close eye on the news” as they didn’t want leaks to create additional security concerns, noting that protests against the wall a possibility could be the news came out.

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Separately, following the success of We Build the Wall, the founders of GoFundMe have been accused of embezzling funds. Kolfage recently pleaded guilty to his role in the scam, admitting he pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars. Bannon, was arrested and charged for his role. However, he was pardoned by Trump before he could be prosecuted.

We reached out to CBP for comment.


Read more about the Daily Dot’s technical and political coverage

*Initial publication: May 11, 2022 at 6:32 am CDT

David Covucci

David Covucci is senior politics and technology editor at the Daily Dot, covering the connection between Washington and Silicon Valley. His work has appeared in Vice, The Huffington Post, Jezebel, Gothamist, and other publications. He is particularly interested in hearing your tips. Please turn to [email protected]

David Covucci

https://www.dailydot.com/debug/border-patrol-donated-we-build-the-wall-gofundme/ Customs and Border Protection workers donated to We Build Wall GoFundMe

Jaclyn Diaz

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