- By JULIE WATSON, Associated Press
- Ariel Norcross holds a sign during a rally against a scheduled upcoming visit by President Donald Trump on Monday, March 12, 2018, in San Diego. Trump is scheduled to visit San Diego on Tuesday, setting foot in California for his first time as president. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
By JULIE WATSON, Associated Press
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Protests over President Donald Trump’s “big beautiful border wall” with Mexico are expected to mark his first visit to California as president on Tuesday amid growing tensions between his administration and the state over immigration enforcement.
Trump will visit eight towering prototypes for the wall before addressing Marines, also in San Diego, and attending a fundraiser in Los Angeles. He’ll be staying there overnight.
“We’re going to the wall. We’re going out to the wall,” Trump told reporters as he departed the White House. “We’re going to be looking at the prototypes, which is very important for our country.”
Trump’s visit comes amid a war of words and legal briefs over California’s refusal to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
The Justice Department last week sued to block a trio of California laws designed to protect people living in the U.S. illegally. Attorney General Jeff Sessions followed up with a speech in Sacramento that was immediately denounced by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, who said the Trump administration was “full of liars” and the lawsuit was akin to an “an act of war.”
A top federal immigration official lashed out at some of the state’s Democratic elected leaders ahead of the visit. Thomas Homan, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s acting director, singled out Brown, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for their recent criticism of a spate of immigration arrests in the state and a federal lawsuit challenging state laws that limit cooperation on immigration.
Homan said Pelosi’s comments about federal agents terrorizing immigrant communities were “beyond the pale” and challenged Feinstein to change laws if she disagreed with how they are enforced.
Trump tweeted about California’s policy as he headed to the state.
“California’s sanctuary policies are illegal and unconstitutional and put the safety and security of our entire nation at risk. Thousands of dangerous & violent criminal aliens are released as a result of sanctuary policies, set free to prey on innocent Americans. THIS MUST STOP!” he wrote.
Protests are also planned across the border in Tijuana, Mexico, as Trump examines the 30-foot-tall (9-meter-tall) prototypes designed to fulfill his signature campaign promise. Trump has insisted Mexico pay for the wall. Mexico has adamantly refused to consider the idea.
Organizers of opposing rallies were urging people to remain peaceful.
The scene was quiet on both sides of the border Tuesday morning as Trump flew to San Diego. On the Mexican side, federal and state police stood by. Tractor-trailer trucks on the U.S. side blocked the view from Mexico of all but the tops of the wall prototypes.
Immigrant activists, church leaders and elected officials held a news conference at the city’s historic Chicano Park to call for demonstrations to show border communities do not support a wall. Standing in front of murals of Mexican revolutionaries and other Latin American icons, they chanted, “We reject your hate! We don’t need your racist wall!”
This isn’t Trump’s first visit to the border. He traveled to Laredo — one of Texas’ safest cities — weeks after declaring his candidacy.
Trump told reporters then that he was putting himself “in great danger” by coming to the border. But, he said, “I have to do it. I love this country.”
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer — who is not expected to meet with Trump during his visit — did not support a 2017 city resolution formally opposing the border, but he also did not veto it. The mayor’s office said Faulconer, a Republican, has been clear in his opposition to walls along the border, but he did not want to blacklist companies involved in the construction of the prototypes.
“When some people look at the U.S.-Mexico border, they see division,” Faulconer said in his State of the City address in 2017. “But here in San Diego, we view it much differently. Rather than allowing the border to divide us, we’re building bridges that connect us.”
Jeff Schwilk, founder of San Diegans for Secure Borders, said the City Council’s resolution does not reflect the views of many residents, who feel the border is not secure. He said his organization respects free speech and hopes Tuesday’s rally will be safe for participants.
“We absolutely want President Trump to feel welcome and to come inspect the prototypes so we can get the wall built,” he said.
Trump is expected Tuesday to be briefed on lessons learned from the construction of the prototypes built in San Diego last fall. He also will meet with border agents and officers to ask what they need, Homeland Security spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said.
The president will not be swayed by California Republican lawmakers concerned the wall is a waste of money, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Monday.
“The president campaigned on this, he talked about it extensively, and he’s the president, and this is something that he is not going to back away from,” she said. “It’s something that he’s going to continue to push for.”
California’s governor on Monday invited Trump to also visit the state’s high-speed rail construction projects.
“You see, in California we are focusing on bridges, not walls,” Brown said in a letter sent to Trump.
Associated Press writers Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento, John Antczak in Los Angeles, Elliot Spagat in San Diego, Greg Bull in Tijuana, Mexico, and Jill Colvin and Nancy Benac in Washington contributed to this report.