President Trump predicted Tuesday that his border wall will stop “99.5 percent” of illegal-immigrant traffic as he toured eight wall prototypes being tested in San Diego, saying it will save thousands of Americans’ lives and the money saved will far outweigh costs of construction.
Standing in California the president also took the chance to blast the state for its sanctuary city policies — and suggested he’s considering vetoing the upcoming spending bill if it won’t punish sanctuaries by stripping away federal grant money.
“We’re going to look at it. We’re looking at it very, very strongly,” the president said. “Sanctuary cities are protecting a horrible group of people, in many cases — criminals.”
Mr. Trump strolled through the prototype walls with Rodney S. Scott, chief patrol agent of the San Diego sector of the Border Patrol, who pointed out the features of each build, and talked about the attempts made to breach or climb them.
“I do have a preference. The problem is, you have to have see-through. You have to know what’s on the other side of the wall. And, I mean, a preference is something like that,” the president said, pointing in the direction of one of the prototypes.
San Diego has had fencing for more than two decades, and Chief Scott showed Mr. Trump before and after pictures of the area. The first photos showed a mass of migrants flowing across a stressed landscape. The modern photos, after the wall was built, showed a tranquil scene on both sides.
The president told reporters to pay attention to the transformation, saying it “re-established law” in the region.
As he toured the site, a reporter assigned to follow him for the day said protests in Spanish could be heard drifting across the border from the Mexican side.
Border Patrol agents have told The Washington Times that the wall prototypes are chiefly for testing purposes, and they will help craft future fencing — though none are likely to become the new standard.
Mr. Trump admired versions that were difficult to climb over, and ones that allowed visibility through to Mexico, saying they gave agents on the U.S. side better awareness of threats.
“You’re not going to see them climbing over this wall too easily, that I can tell you,” he said at one point.
The president made building a border wall a major part of his 2016 campaign — including a promise that Mexico would foot the bill. He hasn’t made much progress on that latter part, but has refused to cave on it either, which has strained relations with Mexico and led to cancellation of several planned meetings between Mr. Trump and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.
Even as he toured the site Tuesday, his re-election campaign sent out an alert to supporters asking them to sign a petition demanding the wall be built.
Congress is less enthusiastic, with Democrats almost universally opposed to the wall, along with some border-state Republicans.
While Democrats haven’t drawn any firm lines in the sand, they have signaled they will vehemently oppose efforts to include border wall funding in the spending bill due next week.
“I don’t think the wall is border security and we will fight for real border security, not fake border security,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat.
Mr. Trump, for his part, said he wants that spending bill to also include language preventing sanctuary cities from getting access to federal grants. It’s unclear what grant money he has in mind, however.
The administration is already engaged in several legal battles with California and a number of sanctuary cities over its efforts to withhold criminal justice grant money.
Mr. Trump in an executive order last year called for an even broader denial of federal money, though one federal judge has cast doubt on his ability to do that under current law.
That means Congress would have to act — but lawmakers said they’re unlikely to do that in the upcoming spending bill.
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