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Remarks During a Review of Border Wall Prototypes and an Exchange With Reporters in San Diego, California

March 13, 2018

The President. So we're looking at the wall and the wall systems, and we have a lot of them. And this gentleman, who's a real expert—you've been doing this how long?

San Diego Border Patrol Sector Chief Patrol Agent Rodney S. Scott. Twenty-five years, sir.

The President. And you were here before they had a wall?

Agent Scott. Correct. I started here in 1992.

The President. And what was it like until you built the wall? And the wall, by the way, is that wall up there, which is just sheet metal. But still, at least it works a little bit.

How was it before you built a wall?

Agent Scott. So there was effectively no border in San Diego. It was a chaotic situation. This fence behind me, it was made out scrap metal that the military wasn't using that we set in place to really just delineate the border once again.

The President. It needed something.

Agent Scott. And it changed our environment. We went from—we decreased the illegal cross-border traffic by 95 percent just with that fence and the roads and the lights and the technology and the——

The President. So that's 95 percent with a scrap metal wall that they just put together with excess material, and it worked 95 percent. And that wall, they can get over it very easily. These walls, they can't. But you know, for the people that say, "No wall," if you didn't have walls over here, you wouldn't even have a country. You wouldn't even have a country.

And by the way, the State of California is begging us to build walls in certain areas. They don't tell you that. And we said, no, we won't do it until we build the whole wall. But there are certain areas, as you know, where they're really wanting us to build a wall, and—because the people are complaining, people are pouring in.

So you know, they don't talk about that.

Border Security

Q. Do you have a preference here, sir or——

The President. Well, I do have a preference. The problem is, you have to have see-through. You have to know what's on the other side of the wall. And I mean, a preference is something like that. The problem is, you don't know what's on the other side of the wall. And if you don't know what's on—I mean, you could be 2 feet away from a criminal cartel, and you don't even know they're there. Now, we have equipment to take care of that, x-ray equipment, et cetera. But if you're on that side of the wall, that's the hardest wall to scale. It's got a lot of assets.

The problem is—tell them, what do you think about the importance of see-through?

Agent Scott. When I have a see-through wall, sir, I know what's approaching the border before it approaches. We have great partners in Mexico with the law enforcement on that side; I

can call them for assistance. I don't get the opportunity to get ahead of a threat if I can't see it approaching.

The President. And what's the danger of not having the see-through?

Agent Scott. When—the steel-metal fence behind us, we learned from that. In fact, in the nineties, we went in and actually cut in ports where we could see on the south side. We found that smugglers were using the fence to hide behind, and they were either rocking our agents, or they would acquire large groups of people and narcotics, and then they would just rush across the border quickly.

The President. Now, if you just have a pure fence—now that's a fence, a very sturdy fence. But coming up, I noticed—the first thing I noticed, look how many holes are in that fence. Now, they fix the holes, but it doesn't look very good. They just patch it with more fence. If you take a look at the fence—and it's a very powerful fence—it's not doing the trick because they cut holes in it, and then they're patching holes all the time.

I'm just looking—you have hundreds of holes cut in and patched, so the fence is not strong enough. It's not the right idea. But for those people, if you don't have a wall system, you're going to have—we're not going to have a country.

And there's a lot of problems in Mexico. They have a lot of problems over there, and they have the cartels, and the cartels—we're fighting the cartels, and we're fighting them hard. Nobody ever fought them like we fought them. I mean, we fight them hard. But the fact is, if you don't have wall system, it would be bedlam, I imagine.

Agent Scott. It's very hard to control with just personnel, sir. It's a combination of all the above.

The President. So we're looking at the walls where you have some three—really, some see-through capability. If you don't have some see-through, it's a problem. So we'll take a look up here.

[At this point, the President continued the tour. He then made additional remarks as follows.]

The President. So this is what it was in the 1990s. It was an open wound, frankly. It was really, really bad. People just pouring across. Drugs, everything else, pouring across. Now, of course, you have a much bigger worldwide drug problem. If we ever had nothing here—we have a lousy wall over here now, but at least it stops 90, 95 percent.

When we put up the real wall, we're going to stop 99 percent, maybe more than that. But this is what it is now, with a not very good wall. But here it is before, and the people are just pouring across.

Agent Scott. This is one of the sections where we have double fencing. You have—actually triple fencing. You have a wall here; you have bollards. Again, it's outdated materials, but it proved the concept.

But, sir, the economic driver of this outlet mall that was built after we reestablished law and order in San Diego Sector. And right behind that is over 500 brand new homes where people have felt so safe near the border, they've moved back in. But that's only because the U.S. Border Patrol reestablished law and order.

The President. So they reestablished law and order in San Diego when they put up a wall. And it's not a superior wall, it's an inferior wall, but it's a wall. And you actually used the term "reestablished law and order."

Agent Scott. Yes, sir.

The President. Do you hear it, folks? I mean, say what you want, this is life. These are the facts of life. That's incredible. That's incredible.

And a part of San Diego needs a wall. They want a wall very desperately. They're willing to do anything to get it. I said: "Nope. Approve the whole wall, California. Approve the whole wall." We're not going to do your little pieces that you want. Approve the whole wall. You know the section I'm talking about.

Okay, folks, thank you. You get it?

Border Security

Q. Has coming here to see these been helpful for you?

The President. Excuse me?

Q. Has coming here to see these——

The President. Oh, yes. Fantastic. I mean, we're looking very much at the wall with some see-through capability on the other side and then solid concrete on top or steel and concrete on top. The round piece that you see up here or you see more clearly back there, the larger it is, the better it is because it's very hard to get over the top. It's really a deterrent from getting over the top. Who would think? Who would think?

But getting over the top is easy. These are, like, professional mountain climbers. They're incredible climbers. They can't climb some of these walls. Some of them, they can. Those are the walls we're not using.

So we've determined that you guys have done a fantastic job.

Agent Scott. Thank you, sir.

The President. We determined what to do. This way, when we build, we're not, like, saying, "Oh, gee, I wish we did it a different way." But if you didn't have it, you would have a tremendous problem. And even the walls they have now, they're not holding out. They're not holding up. And they're small, but they're really great compared to what they had before. Stopped about 95 percent.

Agent Scott. Correct, correct. If I could just point out, we're showing pictures of the United States, of course, too. But there's been an equal benefit—it's in Tijuana; it's in Mexico—that you don't have all that activity hanging out on the south side of the fence either. It's improved the border on both sides, not just our side.

The President. Okay, folks?

Governor Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown of California

Q. Sir, what do you say to criticism from Governor Brown, that some of this money might be better spent elsewhere?

The President. Well, I think Governor Brown has done a very poor job running 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 notifies when ICE is going in to pick them up. And many of them were criminals with criminal records and very dangerous people—you would say dangerous people. And no, I think the Governor is doing a terrible job running the State of California.

And you know, hey, I have property in California, I will say. I don't think too much about my property anymore, but I have great property in California. The taxes are way, way out of whack, and people are going to start to move pretty soon. And if you don't have safety—meaning if you don't have this kind of wall, the drugs are pouring through in California. Can't do it.

So the Governor of California—nice guy; I think he's a nice guy; I knew him a long time ago—has not done the job. And the taxes are double and triple what they should be. And everybody that lives in California, they know it.

Thank you very much, everybody.

NOTE: The President spoke at 12:32 p.m. at the Otay Mesa port of entry. In his remarks, he referred to Mayor Elizabeth B. "Libby" Schaaf of Oakland, CA.

Donald J. Trump, Remarks During a Review of Border Wall Prototypes and an Exchange With Reporters in San Diego, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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