Hours after throwing Washington into a frenzy with his surprise decision to fire Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, President Trump skipped town Tuesday, traveling to San Diego to examine prototypes for his signature border wall that have been constructed at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The larger it is, the better it is, because it’s very hard to get over the top,” Trump said, looking up at the eight towering slabs of concrete and steel. “These are like professional mountain climbers. You’re incredible climbers. They can’t climb some of these walls. Some of them they can—those are the walls we’re not using.”
Trump’s photo-op at the border marked a return to one of his signature campaign promises—one that was little more than an applause line for much of his first year in office. The White House’s major effort to fund the wall as part of a comprehensive immigration reform package stalled out in Congress last month, when Republicans were unable to persuade Democrats to accept new restrictions on legal immigration and increased border security funding in exchange for granting a pathway to citizenship for people brought to America illegally as children.
Flanked by Homeland Security police, Trump insisted that the wall was necessary to foil “criminals and terrorists trying infiltrate our country.”
“The border wall is truly our first line of defense,” Trump said. “It will save thousands and thousands of lives, save taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars, by reducing crime, drug flow, welfare fraud, and burdens on schools and hospitals.”
Earlier Tuesday, Trump tweeted out a Center for Immigration Studies report, arguing that the $18 billion border wall “will pay for itself” by preventing illegal immigrants from making use of social programs.
Trump, who had not previously traveled to California as president, also took the opportunity to criticize the liberal state’s leadership, saying Governor Jerry Brown had done “a very poor job for California.”
“They have the highest taxes in the United States, the place is totally out of control, you have sanctuary cities where you have criminals living in the sanctuary cities, and then the mayor of Oakland goes out and identifies when ICE is going in to pick them up,” Trump said.
The White House has frequently singled out for attack so-called sanctuary cities, where city officials do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement to deport criminal aliens. An administration press release Tuesday argued that “sanctuary city policies cause dangerous criminal aliens to be released into our communities, putting innocent lives at risk.”
This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard