When President Trump visits the eight prototypes for his border wall today — the centerpiece of his 24-hour sortie through Southern California — he’s likely to declare them a major milestone toward completing his most iconic campaign promise.
But Trump is also expected to face vigorous opposition over his visit to San Diego and Los Angeles, as activists plan large-scale protests in response.
The president’s whirlwind itinerary — which the White House released Monday night — appears to have been stage-managed to avoid awkward interruptions. Soon after he lands in San Diego at 11:30 a.m., Trump will be whisked to the prototype site, in a remote patch of arid San Diego scrubland that is closed off to the public.
He’ll review the 30-foot-tall prototypes, which peek over the U.S.-Mexican border and represent the most concrete symbols of Trumpism in the state. After spending almost an hour there, he’ll head to Marine Air Base Miramar to give a speech to military service members.
In the afternoon, Trump will fly north to Los Angeles for a Beverly Hills fundraiser, where he’s expecting to raise $5 million for the Republican National Committee and his own re-election campaign. Tickets range from $35,000 for dinner to $250,000 for a seat at Trump’s table and a photo with him — all at an undisclosed location away from protesters’ chants. Even the route of Trump’s motorcade is under wraps for now, like it was for past presidents’ visits.
Trump’s arrival will come 417 days since he took the Oath of Office, making him the first president to wait this long to visit the Golden State since Franklin D. Roosevelt. FDR made a cross-continental train trip to dedicate the Hoover Dam in 1935.
The 45th president’s delay in visiting is a sign of the strong opposition his administration faces in this deep blue state. But by waiting so long, Trump has also let anger at his leadership and policies simmer and grow among many Californians.
From immigration to health care, and offshore drilling to marijuana, the administration has put forward a policy agenda that seems diametrically opposed to that embraced by state leaders. California officials have responded with denunciations and a bevy of legal actions.
This week’s trip comes in the wake of Trump’s most combative counterpunch to date: the lawsuit that his Justice Department filed against California last week, alleging that its “sanctuary state” law and several other laws protecting undocumented immigrants are unconstitutional.
Several different pro-and-anti-Trump demonstrations are planned on both sides of the border on Tuesday, with groups of Trump supporters and opponents gathering several miles away from the prototypes. Protesters in Mexico will likely be able to get closer; the site is just a few hundred yards north of the actual border wall, which separates it from a Tijuana neighborhood.
At small rallies in downtown San Diego and Beverly Hills on Monday, protesters gave a preview of the reception Trump should expect.
“Don’t visit Beverly Hills and your little wall prototypes,” State Senate leader Kevin de León said at one demonstration. “Take the time to actually see and learn about the greatest state in the nation.” De León, who is running for U.S. Senate, offered to bring Trump to his favorite taco stand and “see if (he) can handle the heat.”
It’s not clear how warm a welcome Trump will receive from local leaders, who traditionally greet visiting presidents as they descend from Air Force One. San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer — one of the few big-city Republican mayors in America — has said he will welcome the president but has also spoken out strongly against the border wall and Trump.
“Building bridges has worked wonders for the San Diego-Tijuana megaregion,” Faulconer wrote in a San Diego Union-Tribune op-ed Monday, lamenting that the president wasn’t sticking around long enough to see the benefits of open trade and cross-border connections.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders predicted in her briefing Monday that Trump would find approval during his Golden State sojourn.
“He may not have won that state, (but) there is certainly a lot of support for this president” in California, Sanders said. “He looks forward to being there.” (Recent polls have found that two thirds of Californians disapprove of Trump’s job performance.)
Sanders declined to say whether Trump would select one of the eight border wall prototypes on the spot as the winning design for the wall — a reality TV-style flourish that some observers expect.
Officials say that a full-scale border wall would likely incorporate several of the different designs, which range from fully opaque concrete slabs to slatted steel barriers offering a view of the other side. The administration has requested $1.6 billion to start building this year, but Congress has not yet allocated any funds.
The prototype construction began in September, and officials have been testing each wall over the last few months to see how difficult it would be to scale, break through or tunnel under.
Until now, the prototypes have been met with a surprising lack of uproar. Local officials initially expected the site to be a magnet for protesters, with the San Diego Sheriff’s office spending more than $760,000 in overtime to deal with demonstrations that never happened. Instead, activists decided not to give the prototypes more attention.
The only real protests over the project’s first six months have been pretty offbeat. In November, a group of activists projected images of migrants and other pro-immigration messages onto the prototypes from across the Mexican border. And an artist put on a satirical “border wall beauty pageant” near a busy pedestrian border crossing last year, with people dressed in cardboard cutouts of the wall prototypes sashaying down a red carpet.
Anti-Trump demonstrators today are expected to be a little more direct.
Trump’s schedule, according to the White House:
- 11:30AM — THE PRESIDENT arrives in San Diego, CA, Miramar Marine Corps Air Station
- 11:40AM — THE PRESIDENT departs Marine Corps Air Station Miramar en route to Brown Field Municipal Landing Zone
- 12:00PM — THE PRESIDENT arrives at Brown Field Municipal Landing Zone
- 12:10PM — THE PRESIDENT departs Brown Field Municipal Landing Zone en route to the Border Wall Prototypes
- 12:20PM — THE PRESIDENT arrives at the Border Wall Prototypes Location
- 12:25PM — THE PRESIDENT reviews Border Wall Prototypes
- 1:15PM — THE PRESIDENT departs the Border Wall Prototypes Location en route Brown Field Municipal Landing Zone
- 1:35PM — THE PRESIDENT departs Brown Field Municipal Airport Landing Zone en route Marine Corps Air Station Miramar
- 1:55PM — THE PRESIDENT arrives at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar
- 2:00PM — THE PRESIDENT delivers remarks to members of the military
- 2:50PM — THE PRESIDENT departs San Diego, CA en route to Los Angeles, CA
- 3:35PM — THE PRESIDENT arrives at Los Angeles International Airport
- 3:45PM — THE PRESIDENT departs Los Angeles International Airport en route to Santa Monica Landing Zone
- 3:55PM — THE PRESIDENT arrives at the Santa Monica Landing Zone
- 4:05PM — THE PRESIDENT departs Santa Monica Landing Zone en route to Private Residence
- 4:25PM — THE PRESIDENT arrives at the Private Residence
- 6:30PM — THE PRESIDENT participates in a roundtable with Republican National Committee supporters
- 8:05PM — THE PRESIDENT departs the Private Residence en route to the RON
- 8:25PM — THE PRESIDENT arrives at the RON