By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump will bring a tough message on illegal immigration to California on Tuesday, taking aim at “sanctuary cities” in his first visit in office to the heavily Democratic state that has served as a base of resistance to many of his policies.
Aides said Trump would not shy away from his sharp focus on immigration during the trip. The Republican president will fly to San Diego on Tuesday morning and then head to the border region to review models of the type of wall he wants to serve as a protective barrier against illegal immigrants, drugs and smuggled weapons.
The Trump administration has escalated its battle with so-called sanctuary cities that critics say protect illegal immigrants from deportation. Last week, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit accusing California of violating the U.S. Constitution and putting federal agents in danger by approving laws protecting illegal immigrants.
California Democratic Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law last October that prevents police from inquiring about immigration status and curtails law enforcement cooperation with immigration officers.
Brown, who accuses the Trump administration of waging war on America’s most populous state, has said the law was crafted with input and support from California police.
In his public remarks on Tuesday, Trump is expected to renew his concern that Los Angeles, San Francisco and other major cities are providing protection for illegal immigrants who have committed crimes.
Tom Homan, acting director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, said in a conference call with reporters on Monday night that Brown, U.S. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein and U.S. Democratic Representative Nancy Pelosi were inflaming the situation by accusing federal agents of preying on immigrants.
“We don’t arrest law-abiding people,” Homan said. “We arrest people who are in the country illegally and violate federal law.”
Pelosi had called an ICE raid in the San Francisco Bay area a “cowardly” abuse of power
After his San Diego stop, Trump will travel to Los Angeles to headline a political fundraiser in Beverly Hills.
Trump won the presidency in November 2016 despite losing California badly to Democrat Hillary Clinton.
A Republican Party official said the fundraiser would net $5 million from 90 people expected to attend the event, which will benefit both Trump’s prospective 2020 re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Peter Cooney)