OTAY MESA, California — President Donald Trump arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border early Tuesday afternoon to inspect the eight prototypes for the border wall he promised to build.
It was the president’s first stop on his first visit to California since taking office, and came just days after the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit in Sacramento challenging the constitutionality of the state’s “sanctuary” laws.
Trump was accompanied by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and escorted by Chief Patrol Agent Rodney S. Scott, who oversees the San Diego sector of the border.
He was also briefed by Jim O’Louhghlin, an official who works with the contractors and is considered the “subject matter expert” on the wall.
The president told reporters that he preferred prototypes that had some “see-through capability” so that Border Patrol agents could see what, and who, was on the other side. “You have to know what’s on the other side of the wall. … You could be two feet away from a cartel, and you don’t even know they’re there.”
Two of the eight prototypes, each 30 feet tall, have see-through fencing, both at ground level.
He also said that he preferred models that had a rounded top that would make scaling the wall more difficult.
Trump added that a fence, by itself, was insufficient because it could be easily cut. “You have hundreds of holes cut in, and patched,” he said, referring to the current barrier.
“If you don’t have a wall system, you’re not going to have a country,” he said.
The president also talked about the benefits of the wall to the local economy and society. “They re-established law and order in San Diego when they put up a wall. And it’s not a superior wall — it’s an inferior wall. But it’s a wall.”
The president criticized California Governor Jerry Brown, who sent the president a letter Monday arguing for “bridges, not walls”
“The governor is doing a terrible job,” Trump said, standing by one of the prototypes, citing high taxes, illegal immigration, and the exodus of taxpayers from the state. He also singled out Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf for warning illegal aliens last month that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would be conducting a sweep in Northern California.
Later, in a press briefing, flanked by members of federal law enforcement agencies, President Trump promised that the wall would save lives and money “by reducing crime, drug flow, welfare fraud, and burdens on schools and hospitals.”
He called on Congress to “fully fund” the wall, no matter which prototype, or prototypes, were chosen.
“The ones that work the best aren’t necessarily the most expensive. I like that ring,” he concluded.
The wall prototypes were constructed pursuant to an Executive Order issued on President Trump’s fifth day in office.
Long before the president arrived, demonstrators — for and against — prepared to greet him. Several hundred pro-Trump, pro-border wall protesters gathered near the Border Patrol station, waving Gadsden flags and Trump campaign banners. They carried signs supporting the wall and opposing California’s “sanctuary state” laws. One sign read, in Spanish, “Arriba el Muro” (Up with the Wall).
Earlier, Breitbart News spoke to some of the organizers of the demonstration.
Robin Hvidston, California State Coordinator for the Remembrance Project, told Breitbart News: “I think it’s great, symbolically, that [President Trump]’s coming to the California border, especially after the announcement by the Justice Department. It’s kind of like a one-two punch…We are thrilled that he is going be here in our state.”
Ben Bergquam, co-founder of www.FightSanctuaryState.com, told Breitbart News: “I am excited for President Trump to visit the wall prototypes. We are sick and tired of our dreams being stolen by illegal sanctuary policies and the criminal politicians that support them in our state.
“I have friends who have lost children at the hands of illegal aliens that were protected by sanctuary policies, yet all we hear from the left are stories about poor illegals. What is it going to take for Democrats to care about American citizens’ dreams again?
“Thank you, President Trump, for putting America first again — we welcome you to California. Build the wall and help us defeat this cancer of lawlessness before it spreads to the rest of the county. Help us fight [the] sanctuary state!”
Jeff Schwilk, Founder of San Diegans for Secure Borders, told Breitbart News Tonight on Monday evening: “We know we had to come out and show support for President Trump, because we represent the majority, not these paid activists and radical freaks that run around doing their radical protests.
“We’re not going to let President Trump get bullied around. They’re not going to shut down his tour.”
Closer to the prototype site itself, a couple dozen anti-Trump protesters gathered, holding signs of their own. “Traitor,” said one. “Moron,” said another — a reference to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who reportedly used that term to describe President Trump last year, and who was abruptly fired earlier Tuesday morning.
Throughout the president’s visit to the border, protesters and journalists watched from rooftops on the Mexican side of the existing border fence — under the watchful eye of police on both sides.
Later Tuesday, the president was set to deliver a speech at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar before flying to Los Angeles and attending a Republican fundraiser at a private residence.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.