WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump threatened Wednesday to prevent construction of a border wall with Mexico in California that the state sued to stop.
In a puzzling early-morning tweet, Trump said he “decided that sections of the Wall that California wants built NOW will not be built until the whole Wall is approved.”
California, however, joined four environmental advocacy groups in challenging the wall construction, arguing that Trump’s administration had overreached when it waived environmental reviews and other laws.
And Gonzalo Curiel, the federal judge who was taunted by Trump during the 2016 campaign for his Mexican heritage, sided with the president on Tuesday in rejecting California’s arguments. Trump hailed the ruling as a “big victory.”
The White House did not immediately answer questions about the tweet. The Department of Homeland Security referred questions to the White House.
Trump has been increasingly annoyed at California, castigating the state for limiting its cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Last week, he threatened to pull the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency out of the state in reprisal — an idea so unlikely that some of Trump’s staunchest critics dismissed it as bluster amid escalating tensions with the state over its immigration policies.
Trump also has been frustrated in his efforts to get funding for the border wall, one of his central campaign promises. His administration has proposed spending $1.6 billion to extend the wall 60 miles (96 kilometers) in Texas and replace 14 miles (22 kilometers) in California, specifically in San Diego. It wants $1.6 billion to extend the wall 65 miles (104 kilometers) next year, all of it in Texas. Congress has yet to approve the spending.
Eight prototypes meant to serve as a guide for future designs were completed in San Diego in October. And construction began last week to replace slightly more than 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) of wall in Calexico, California, the first wall contract that the administration awarded outside of the prototypes. Both projects carry a relatively small price tag and were funded last year.
Trump is scheduled to visit the wall prototypes in San Diego in mid-March, according to a U.S. official. Another person familiar with the visit said Trump would also go to Los Angeles for a fundraiser in his rare foray into California. Both people spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the visit publicly.
A Border Patrol spokesman in the sector that includes construction in Calexico said he was unaware of the president’s tweet but insisted work there was not part of the president’s planned wall. On Wednesday, crews continued to work on replacing a 1990s-era barrier with 30-foot-high (9-meter-high) bollards. The project is expected to take up to 300 days.
Imperial County Supervisor John Renison, who represents Calexico, said he supports the design being used there because people can see through it but opposes a wall generally. He was unaware of the president’s tweet or any change of plans.
“We do not support a wall, obviously, and let me make that very clear,” Renison said. “It’s like the old Berlin. You’re separating countries, and you’re creating animosity, and it’s not good.”
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a Democrat, has adamantly opposed Trump’s plans, saying Tuesday in response to the court ruling that a “medieval wall along the U.S.-Mexico border simply does not belong in the 21st century.”