President Donald Trump showcased a two-mile-long, 30-foot high section of steel bollard wall in Calexico along the U.S.-Mexico border Friday as part of his signature immigration initiative.
Trump also held a roundtable with Republican lawmakers and immigration officials at which he warned would-be migrants, “The system is full. We can’t take you anymore.”
“So turn around, that’s the way it is,” the president added.
It was a hectic day that started at the White House, where Trump talked to reporters before he boarded Marine One. He flew on Air Force One to the Naval Air Facility in El Centro, then hopscotched to Los Angeles to attend a political fundraiser at a Beverly Hills home. He was then scheduled to fly to McCarran International Airport ahead of a Saturday speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition at The Venetian.
While the White House does not release information about where the president will spend the night when he is traveling, he has been known to spend the night at the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas when in town.
Trump began the day telling reporters, “They have to get rid of the whole asylum system because it doesn’t work.”
Newly elected Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom lashed out at Trump, saying in a statement that Trump’s remarks “show a total disregard of the Constitution, our justice system, and what it means to be an American.”
This weekend, Newsom heads to El Salvador for his first foreign trip where he will “examine the root causes of migration.”
Asked about Newsom’s statement, Trump responded, “Gov. Newsom is obviously living in a different world.”
The Friday trip capped a week Trump spent taunting Mexico as he threatened to close the border, then taking back his threat. He then threatened to impose auto tariffs, but clarified he was giving a one-year warning before they would be imposed. He ended by praising Mexico for returning migrants to their home countries in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
The week also included an unexpected personnel shake-up as the the Associated Press reported Thursday that Trump had decided to pull his nominee to head U.S. Immigration and Enforcement, acting Director Ron Vitiello – a story that surprised Department of Homeland Security staff who had expected Vitiello to join Trump on the trip to El Centro.
Asked about the decision as he was about to board Marine One Friday morning, Trump told reporters, “Ron’s a good man, but we’re going in a tougher direction.”
On the road to Calexico, fans stood cheering, waving flags and holding signs thanking Trump and supporting the wall. The road also included anti-Trumpers, and a giant balloon of an orange diaper-clad Trump hovered above the wall ahead of Trump’s arrival.
During the roundtable, supportive officials talked about the situation at the border, where the old fencing failed to keep out those crossing the border illegally, according to El Centro Chief Border Patrol Agent Gloria Chavez.
Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite of the Army Corps of Engineers said that by the end of 2020, there should be 450 miles of more reliable replacement barriers.
Vice President Mike Pence also was scheduled to arrive in Las Vegas Friday night so that he can address the Republican Jewish Coalition after Trump.
Earlier in the day, Pence flew to Houston where he attended a briefing with Homeland Security and ICE agents and castigated Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro at Rice University.
A plaque “to commemorate the completion of the first section of President Trump’s border wall” was installed at the area in October.
When construction started in February, David Kim, assistant chief patrol agent for the Border Patrol’s El Centro sector, told the Palm Springs Desert Sun, “We just wanted to get out in front of it and let everybody know that this is a local tactical infrastructure project that was planned for some time.”
The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands operates The Venetian and Palazzo. The Republican Jewish Coalition meeting in April is scheduled to take place at The Venetian and Palazzo, and Adelson is on the group’s board of directors.