Protesters rallied Friday near the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego in anticipation of a visit by two top Trump administration officials as they look at ways to improve border security.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions have been in San Diego County, meeting with U.S. Customs and Border Protection employees.
Kelly and Sessions spoke with reporters Friday afternoon, highlighting the need to enforce immigration laws in the U.S.
“These laws exist to keep our people safe and our nation sovereign,” Kelly said. “We’re serious about border security and enforcing our immigration laws.”
Kelly said officials will continue to expand their approach to deter illegal immigration into the United States. To that end, Kelly said this includes building the border wall as promised by President Donald Trump.
"That includes construction the physical barrier, supporting it with technology and patrolling it with dedicated and professional men and women of DHS [Department of Homeland Security]," Kelly added. "It also includes our approach of prosecuting anyone who pays traffickers to smuggle people into our country that includes, especially those who smuggle children, including family members who smuggle children or pay to have them smuggled."
Sessions reinforced Kelly's words and praised him for the work he had done. He also expressed his support for President Trump, saying he had seen a lot of changes since the new administration took office.
"I knew if we had a strong leader who spoke clearly and boldly about ending this illegality, we would have progress," Sessions said, speaking of illegal immigration. "But I gotta say, it’s exceeded what I thought possible.”
"I’m excited about the path we’re on," he added. "We’re doing the right thing. We’re working every day to have a lawful system of immigration—one that we can be proud of, one that serves the national interest."
He added that the State of California is one of nine jurisdictions that are violating the federal law and have until June 30 to send legal justifications for why they are not violating the law.
Sessions also said that lax immigration policies in sanctuary jurisdictions allowed gang members to return to the streets, even after they had been deported.
People on both sides of the immigration issue filled the border crossing all day Friday prior to the arrival of Kelly and Sessions.
The local president of the National Border Patrol Council, Terence Shigg, told NBC 7 Thursday that he hopes the visit will lead to a new wall, and more enforcement.
On the other end, one group of demonstrators turned out Friday holding signs saying “No wall” and “Resist.”
Alliance San Diego and other organizations asked residents who live in border communities what they need from the current administration.
“We are not a war zone. This is a community that is safe and that is thriving,” said Christian Ramirez, Human Rights Director at Alliance San Diego.
“It sends the wrong message to the American people of the border lands. This is an economic engine,” he said.
Ramirez said the U.S. should spend the billions of dollars that would need to be spent to build a border wall on improving ports of entry and improving infrastructure.
"It's not fair to categorize all of us, 15 million people who live in the border lands, as potential criminals," he said. "We have to strike a balance."
Congress still has yet to approve any funding for the construction of a border wall. The prototype for the wall will be built in San Diego.
Williams Para lives in the U.S. and travels to Mexico every three days to visit his family.
“Why should we need a wall,” he asked, adding that he would rather see the money spent on schools, parks, beaches and job creation in the U.S.
Over the last decade, the number of people illegally crossing into the U.S. along the southern border has consistently decreased.
Despite the drop in numbers, Border Patrol agents say smuggling is still a serious problem that needs to be addressed.
CBP officials hope to get enough funding to hire 5,000 more agents along the U.S.-Mexico border. Currently, the San Diego region has about 2,300 agents.
Secretary Kelly and Attorney General Sessions were expected to speak with reporters at Friday afternoon at Border Field State Park but the press conference was canceled.