SAN DIEGO — Dozens of demonstrators protested President Donald Trump’s proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall Tuesday, shouting and holding signs at the busiest U.S. border crossing Tuesday before he inspects prototypes intended to guide future construction.
Protesters chanted, “No ban! No wall!” near the San Ysidro border crossing, where tens of thousands of people enter the U.S. daily from Tijuana, Mexico, many on their way to work or school in San Diego. Drivers honked as a show of support.
Other protests were planned later in Tijuana and San Diego to mark Trump’s first presidential visit to California, where he will examine the 30-foot-tall prototypes built last year along the border in a bid to fulfil his signature campaign promise.
The president also will speak with immigration enforcement officials and with Marines at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar before heading to a fundraiser in Los Angeles.
San Diego’s Republican mayor criticized Trump’s short visit, saying the president won’t get a full picture of the city. Kevin Faulconer said that if Trump stayed more than a few hours, he would see that a strong economy and free trade aren’t a contradiction but a way of life.
The mayor, a business-friendly Republican and ardent supporter of the North American Free Trade Agreement, said a popular cross-border airport terminal connecting San Diego and Tijuana shows that “building bridges has worked wonders.” The terminal is a few miles from the border-wall prototypes.
Trump had campaigned against NAFTA as a job killer that he said encouraged American companies to move factories to Mexico to exploit cheap labour. Renegotiations over the deal began last summer.
Faulconer, writing in The San Diego Union-Tribune, also said San Diego police work to protect everyone regardless of immigration status, an apparent dig at Trump’s push to target illegal immigration.
The issue has led to heightened tensions between California and the Trump administration. The Justice Department recently sued over state laws that limit co-operation with immigration authorities, which state officials have harshly criticized.
San Diego’s City Council last year passed a resolution opposing Trump’s proposed wall.
Jeff Schwilk, founder of San Diegans for Secure Borders, whose group participated in a rally in December near the prototypes that ended in clashes with counterprotesters, said the 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 a pro-wall rally Tuesday 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.