President Donald Trump’s border wall project could get funding through an unlikely method: voluntary donations from private citizens.
The newly-founded America First Foundation, Inc., has started accepting donations to fund “the great wall of America,” with the ultimate goal of raising $21 billion to contribute to construction of the nearly 2,000 mile, 18 to 30-foot-high barrier between the U.S. and Mexico.
“This is not a joke, this is not a scam, this is the REAL DEAL!” a post on the group’s Facebook page reads.
America First’s founders want to bring the American people together to be part of what will be a historic construction project, securing the southern border by slowing illegal immigration, reduce drug trafficking, and reducing the burden on federal coffers.
“They are going to put up the wall. We’re just trying to help,” Steven Vulich, co-founder and vice president of America First Foundation, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Vulich is an Army veteran who was medically discharged after taking shrapnel during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and now works as a police officer on military bases. He lives in Colorado Springs, Colo., and is also an entrepreneur who created a social networking app.
America First was founded shortly after Trump won the 2016 presidential election, based on the premise of “getting American citizens together for a common cause,” Vulich said.
Right now, that cause is Trump’s border wall, or the “GREAT SOUTHERN BORDER WALL,” according to America First’s website.
So far, the campaign has raised $138.00 from 130 donations, but Vulich said word about the campaign is spreading. The website launched in February, and people are nervous about donating money to a new nonprofit, but the group is working to legitimize the organization. The group has a small staff, a public relations firm, and other projects as well.
One campaign listed on the website asks for money to help people displaced by the Oroville, Calif. damn floods, and another general disaster relief team that can “Respond Quickly To Many Types Of Disasters Around The Country With The Early Supplies Needed To Assist Those Who Are Effected [sic] And Displaced.”
Any money America First raises for the wall project will go toward the border wall construction. Vulich wants to work with the administration and the Department of Homeland Security to directly pay contractors working on the wall through a public-private partnership.
Arizona tried raising funds through private, voluntary donations for a fence solely covering its 200-mile portion of the U.S. border with Mexico several years ago, but the project ultimately failed. State legislators initiated the project in 2011 and hoped to raise $50 million, but by 2015, the project had only garnered $265,000 and the project was abandoned, the Associated Press reported at the time.
The 2016 election may indicate voters want the border wall, according to Vulich. “It’s what the people have been asking for. It’s what people want,” Vulich said.
The Trump administration is seeking $999 million in supplemental funding to start the wall project this year, but that’s a fraction of the cost. A DHS reportobtained by Reuters earlier this month put the cost of entire project at $21 billion.
Federal agencies are soliciting prototypes for the wall from construction firms, but ultimately, the project will require Congressional action to fully fund itself, and Democratic leaders have already threatened a government shutdown.
“It’s not about Republicans or Democrat,” Vulich said. Bringing in private money for the construction project could, in theory, allow the administration to fund other parts of the budget important to Democrats. “We’re trying to make everybody happy.”