Tuesday , March 13, 2018 - 10:00 PM
(c) 2018, The Washington Post.
SAN DIEGO - Making his first trip to California since taking office, President Donald Trump on Tuesday showed off prototypes for his long-promised border wall, strongly condemned jurisdictions that offer “sanctuary” to undocumented immigrants - and accused the state’s governor of doing “a terrible job.”
The visit, which drew protesters on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, came at a time of escalating acrimony between Trump and Democratic leaders of the nation’s most populous state, who have sought through legislation and lawsuits to counter Trump on immigration and other policies.
Even against that backdrop, Trump’s swipe at Gov. Jerry Brown, D, was remarkable coming from a sitting president. As Trump toured the site of eight prototypes of the border wall, he told onlookers that Brown “does a very poor job of running California.”
“They have the highest taxes in the United States,” Trump said. “The place is totally out of control. You have sanctuary cities where you have criminals living in the sanctuary cities.”
The president also noted that he owns property in the state - a home in Beverly Hills and a golf club in Rancho Palos Verdes - and predicted that people would start to move out of California because of taxes that are “way, way out of whack.”
Brown responded on Twitter, thanking Trump for the “shout-out.”
“California remains the 6th largest economy in the world and the most prosperous state in America,” Brown wrote, adding: “#Facts.”
Trump’s trip included an address to military personnel here at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, where he was well-received as he touted planned pay raises and new investments in helicopters and other equipment. Trump also floated the idea of creating a new branch of the military to fight in space.
The president was scheduled to attend a fundraiser in the Los Angeles area later Tuesday to benefit the Republican National Committee.
The border-wall prototypes Trump visited are on display in a dusty lot near the border. The 30-foot-tall barriers use varying configurations of steel, concrete and even spikes to create ramparts far more formidable than almost anything in place along the 2,000-mile border with Mexico.
The Trump administration is seeking $18 billion for wall construction over the next 10 years, an amount that would pay for roughly 300 miles of barriers where none exist and allow the government to replace 400 miles of “legacy” fencing.
“We need safety, we need security at the border, and we’re getting it like we’ve never had it before,” Trump said. “But we want to make it perfecto.”
At one point, protesters could be heard chanting in Spanish from the other side of the border.
En route to the Golden State earlier Tuesday, Trump took aim on Twitter at its “sanctuary” laws.
“California’s sanctuary policies are illegal and unconstitutional and put the safety and security of our entire nation at risk,” the president wrote, adding: “THIS MUST STOP!”
He echoed those themes in remarks near the border and at the Marine base here.
Tensions between Trump and leaders of California - a state that Democrat Hillary Clinton carried by 30 percentage points in 2016 - have reached a boil over immigration.
Last week, Brown accused the Trump administration of “basically going to war against the state” over the announcement of a lawsuit that aims to compel California to cooperate with Trump’s agenda of stepped-up immigrant deportations.
The suit targets three laws passed by the legislature last year that prohibit local law enforcement from alerting federal immigration agents when detainees are released from custody, make it a crime for business owners to voluntarily help federal agents find undocumented workers and create a state inspection program for federal immigration detention centers.
At a news conference in Los Angeles before Trump’s arrival here, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, D, offered a prebuttal to the president’s appearance. “Here in California in 2018, we know what actually keeps us safe,” Becerra said. “It’s the strong relationship between law enforcement and the communities we serve. It’s the trust we establish with the families in these neighborhoods, but it’s also something beyond that. It’s good jobs. Good schools. Access to good health care. Education for our families. It’s a safe and clean neighborhood. It’s an environment with clean water and clean air.”
Hours before Trump’s arrival at the prototype site, a crowd of about 200 pro-wall, pro-Trump supporters gathered about a half-mile from the border to make their feelings known.
Kathy Robinson, 55, from Burbank, said walls have been effective security measures in other places. She cited Israel as an example.
Robinson, who works as an Uber driver and photographer, was decked out with a U.S.-flag-patterned ski hat, a matching tote bag and a Trump T-shirt. Around her, people were chanting “USA!” and waving flags and posters.
Speakers at the rally included Tim Donnelly, a Republican running for Congress in California’s 8th District, who called for the impeachment of Brown and of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, D, whom Trump has called a “disgrace” because of her stance on the federal immigration crackdown. Donnelly’s suggestion on Schaaf was met with shouts of “Lock her up!”
A few miles west, in the neighboring border-front community of San Ysidro, about 150 people gathered to protest Trump and the proposed wall at a Roman Catholic church.
Their posters ranged from cheeky to impassioned. “Go away Cheeto man,” one sign read.
Rep. Juan Vargas, D, whose 51st District runs along the southern California border, including the sites of both rallies, said Trump is not his president.
Calling the wall “a symbol of hate,” Vargas said its budget would come from Social Security, food stamp and Medicare budgets.
“We have to resist,” he said. “They have to let him know that California doesn’t welcome him.”
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The Washington Post’s Roxana Popescu contributed to this report.
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