CALIFORNIA, U.S. - As U.S. President Donald Trump made his first ever visit to California since taking office on Tuesday, several peaceful protesters chanted “No Ban, No Wall.”
Tensions between the Trump administration and the state of California have intensified in recent months over immigration enforcement.
On Tuesday, as the President arrived in San Diego, demonstrators chanted slogans and were cheered on by honking cars and buses at the nation’s busiest border crossing - the San Ysidro port of entry in San Diego.
Protests were also held on the Mexican side in Tijuana, where semi trucks were parked in between the row of prototypes and the border, blocking the view from Mexico.
According to the Demonstrators, they planned to line up and greet people walking into the United States at the San Ysidro crossing to show Americans welcome immigrants.
Trump is said to have inspected eight towering prototypes that were on display for his “big beautiful border wall” and was seen being briefed by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and several Border Patrol officials.
The prototypes have been built by private contractors from across the country, from Maryland to Arizona, and have been funded with $20 million from Customs and Border Protection.
The Department of Homeland Security mockups gave Trump a closer look at the prototypes, one of which will serve as Trump’s long-promised wall along the border of the U.S. and Mexico, if Congress decides to allot the funds to do so.
Later speaking to reporters, he said that of the prototypes he saw, he liked a fully concrete wall because it was the hardest to climb, but he noted that it needs see-through capability.
Trump told reporters, "If you didn't have walls, you wouldn't have a country."
When completed, the Trump administration expects the whole border wall to cost about $18 billion, though other estimates have ranged up to $38 billion.
Trump's border wall pledge made during the campaign has, however, proved to be divisive.
A day before Trump's arrival in California, the state's Democratic governor, Jerry Brown, called on the president to extend the focus of his visit beyond the wall.
He posted a letter to the president on Monday in the public domain, and said, "You see, in California we are focusing on bridges, not walls. And that's more than just a figure of speech. After you've examined your wall prototypes on the border. I invite you to head north to the Central Valley — the heart of California. Here in cities like Fresno and Madera more than a dozen bridges are being built for the nation's first and only High-Speed Rail line."
However, others, like San Diego-based immigration advocate Andrea Guerrero have said that Trump’s proposal is an alarming symbol of the policies his administration has pursued.
Before the President’s arrival, she said, "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 within the interior of the United States."
However, while speaking to reporters during his visit, Trump said that certain parts of California are desperate for a wall to break the flow of illegal immigration, adding, “If you didn't have walls over here, you wouldn't even have a country.”
He said, “There's a lot of problems in Mexico — they have a lot of problems over there. The fact is, if you don't have a wall system it would be bedlam, I imagine."
Trump’s visit to California coincided with an escalating battle between his administration and the liberal state.
Last week, the Justice Department sued the state over three of its immigration laws.
Officials in California have defiantly refused to help federal agents detain and deport immigrants in the U.S. illegally.
The President also addressed Marines during his visit, promoting his defense policies to troops stationed in San Diego.
He stopped by at the nearby Marine Corps Air Station in Miramar and addressed an often-boisterous crowd — and promoting what he called "the largest military buildup since Ronald Reagan and one of the largest buildups we've ever had in the history of our nation."
The president promised the assembled members of the military their "largest pay raise in over a decade," brand-new warplanes and a national strategy that "recognizes that space is a war fighting domain — just like the land, air and sea."
He added, “We may even have a 'space force.’ Develop another one: We have the Air Force, we'll have the space force."
He was set to visit a high-dollar fundraiser in Los Angeles, where he will stay overnight.