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Intense security on both sides of border for Trump's visit to wall prototypes

Intense security on both sides of border for Trump's visit to wall prototypes
Intense security on both sides of border as Trump visits border wall prototypes (Los Angeles Times)

President Trump will arrive in San Diego County on Tuesday to survey the border wall prototypes he commissioned amid high security and expected protests.

Any demonstrators will be confined to a dirt lot in Otay Mesa that the County Sheriff's Department has designated a temporary "free speech zone." People are prohibited from carrying anything that could be used as a weapon, from slingshots and rocks to guns and knives. Glass containers are also banned.

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U.S. and Mexican authorities appeared to be collaborating closely on security measures for the president's visit. Members of the U.S. Secret Service have been in Tijuana in recent days to help plan Tuesday's security operation, according to U.S. and Mexican sources.

On Monday, members of U.S. and Mexican agencies gathered at the Federal Police command center near Tijuana's A.L. Rodriguez International Airport to make final arrangements.

Several groups are planning peaceful protests on the Mexican side, but a Federal Police official said they are not going to be allowed near the prototype area.

Authorities in Tijuana said they were preparing to block off all access about 1¼ miles of the existing fence, and would close down the dirt road that runs along the fence.

Trump's whirlwind tour is expected to only last a few hours, beginning with his arrival aboard Air Force One at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar at 11:30 a.m. PDT

From there he will fly to Brown Field Municipal Airport, then head to the border prototypes on Otay Mesa. He has set aside about 45 minutes for the inspection, according to the White House.

Then it is back to Miramar, where he is scheduled to give remarks at the Marine base at 2 p.m. In a briefing Monday, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump will address all five branches of the military.

"While California may not have — he may not have won that state — there is certainly a lot of support for this president, not just there but across the country," Sanders said. "And he looks forward to being there and presenting a lot of the specific policies."

The president will then depart for Los Angeles for a Republican fundraiser at a private home. The evening will include a roundtable with Republican National Committee supporters.

The visit is mobilizing both supporters and critics. A pro-wall rally has been planned to greet Trump at the prototypes. And while some critics have organized rallies elsewhere to avoid a clash, counter-protesters are anticipated to make an appearance as well.

At Our Lady of Mount Carmel at noon in San Ysidro, elected officials will rally with interfaith leaders to urge protection of the state's immigrant communities.

Organizers of Women's March San Diego plan to be at the protest site with a large sign urging Trump to "build bridges, not walls" in anticipation that he will fly by helicopter to the prototype site.

Meanwhile, San Diegans for Secure Borders are planning to show their support for Trump and the wall with conservative groups and speakers at Bristow Court in Otay Mesa.

Security is sure to be tight, although it is unknown to what extent Trump might expose himself in examining the prototypes.

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The eight prototypes represent a cornerstone of Trump's campaign promise to build a "big, beautiful wall" across the 2,000-mile Southwestern U.S. border. He called for the models in an early executive order, and they were built in September along a dusty section of land next to the actual border fence.

The goal is to test different materials and designs for impenetrability, although there may not be one big winner. The Department of Homeland Security has said future border barrier designs will likely include a combination of ideas presented from various prototypes.

The sections of wall, more imposing than the existing border barrier at 30 feet high, have undergone rigorous testing in the meantime at an undisclosed location.

Trump has not yet received funding for the envisioned wall. His administration has requested $18 billion that would build about 300 miles of new barrier where none exist and would replace older sections of fencing.

On Monday Sanders stressed that the wall is something Trump "is not going to back away from" and will continue to push for.

In Tijuana on Monday afternoon, Trump's impending visit brought much activity to the southern side of the corrugated border fence, lined with a dirt road that is littered with trash and the rusting bodies of abandoned cars.

East of the Otay Mesa Port of Entry, residents of the adjacent Rancho Escondido neighborhood continued with their daily routines, even as foreign and Mexican news teams arrived to solicit interviews, conduct stand-ups by the fence, and peek above it.

"It's not good," said Mauricio Villlegas, 37, glancing toward the fence and prototype walls as he passed through on his way to a job at a veterinary office. "People are going to continue to pursue a better life. If they don't find it in their own country, they're going to leave to find work elsewhere."

Dibble and Davis write for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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