Trump To Visit Border To Ramp Up Fight Against Illegal Immigration

Originally published on March 16, 2018 11:46 am
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President Trump has been talking about the border for a very long time, and today, he's going to take a look for himself. He will tour the Southern border and look at prototypes of the wall he wants to build to keep people from coming into the country illegally. As NPR's Richard Gonzales reports, the prototypes are being displayed near 14 miles of border fencing in California that's topped with razor wire.

RICHARD GONZALES, BYLINE: To get a good look at the existing border fence, just go to the San Diego district of San Ysidro, just north of the border with Tijuana. There's a massive, premium outlet mall with retail names familiar to any American consumer.

DAVID FLORES: You'll see a lot of pedestrians shop here. And this is now a regional international shopping center where you get international visitors coming to shop here.

GONZALES: David Flores works for Casa Familiar, a local nonprofit focused on revitalizing the economy of this border district. On a driving tour, he turns to the back end of the mall, which butts up against a triple-layered fence separating the United States from Mexico. There's a stunning contrast between the mall that attracts shoppers from Tijuana and the fence that's designed to keep other Mexicans out, says the CEO of Casa Familiar, Lisa Cuestas.

LISA CUESTAS: It doesn't matter that that fence is there. There's something bigger going on here.

GONZALES: She's talking about the economic links between communities on both sides of the border, but as President Trump visits this border district today to inspect the prototypes of the wall he hopes to build, commerce is not likely to be high on his agenda. And that's OK with Jeff Schwilk, founder of San Diegans for Secure Borders. Schwilk says the existing fence between, 14-18 feet high, is good, but a taller wall would be even better.

JEFF SCHWILK: Fences work. Just like it might keep bad people out of your property at home, fences between countries, when you have a lot of people trying to sneak in, absolutely cuts down on the illegal entries. And, you know, if that's what we have to have, then that's what we have to have.

GONZALES: Schwilk and his group will be among those who rally in favor of the president while he's visiting the wall prototypes. The prototypes are eight 30-foot-high slabs of steel and concrete displayed by private contractors hoping to land the job of building the multibillion-dollar wall. The administration forecasts spending about $18 billion. The project is stalled out in Congress. Opponents of the wall say it is unnecessary and wasteful. Andrea Guerrero is the executive director of Alliance San Diego, a coalition of immigrant advocates.

ANDREA GUERRERO: The wall is more than a wall. In the shadow of that wall, a deportation force is growing. And it is ripping families from one another. It is devastating communities well into the interior of the United States.

GONZALES: Trump's visit to the border follows a similar trip to California made last week by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He announced that the Justice Department is suing California to block the state's sanctuary laws that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities. State officials, starting with Governor Jerry Brown, are promising to fight the lawsuits. Richard Gonzales, NPR News, San Diego.