Why GoFundMe Is Refunding the Millions Trump Supporters Donated to Build the Border Wall
A GoFundMe campaign that has raised more $20 million in an effort to help fund President Donald Trump‘s proposed border wall hit a barrier of its own last week.
On Friday, campaign organizer and Air Force veteran Brian Koflage Jr. announced that donations would no longer be going to the federal government and instead would fund a new non-profit called “We Build the Wall, Inc.”
However, given this change in how the money is to be used, GoFundMe said the millions of dollars Koflage had already raised will be returned to contributors unless they “opt-in” to support his new endeavor.
The campaign’s page originally staged, “If we don’t reach our goal or come significantly close we will refund every single penny,’ ” a GoFundMe spokesman, Bobby Whithorne, explained to PEOPLE. “He [Koflage] also stated on the campaign page, ’100% of your donations will go to the Trump Wall. If for ANY reason we don’t reach our goal we will refund your donation.’ However, that did not happen.”
The fundraising goal was $1 billion.
Supporters of the campaign who would like their donations to instead go toward Koflage’s organization must fill out a request on the campaign page to “opt-in,” Whithorne says. Otherwise, “if they do not take that step, they will automatically receive a full refund.”
Koflage, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment from PEOPLE, has been urging supporters to opt-in to make sure their earlier donations go to his organization.
His decision to launch We Build the Wall and change the source of his campaign funds followed his conclusion that “the federal government won’t be able to accept our donations anytime soon,” the campaign page reads.
Koflage believes his team is “better equipped than our own government to use the donated funds to build an actual wall on the southern border,” according to his campaign’s site.
The Department of Homeland Security will not accept outside money without Congressional approval, according to USA Today.
As one immigration policy analyst, David Bier, explained to the paper: “Congress wants that control over what money is being used for and what agencies are doing, so you don’t have money coming in from unknown places influencing policy.”
The federal government is now in the midst of its longest-ever shutdown over the president’s demand for funding to lengthen the wall with Mexico all along the border. Such a barrier was a centerpiece of his campaign, and he has contended — with weak evidence — that it is needed to stave off a “crisis” of drugs, violence and human trafficking.
Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, called Tump’s wall plan “immoral” and “unwise.”