For years in San Diego, most residents have referred to the barrier there as a fence. But some have taken to calling it a wall, in a nod to the president’s campaign messaging and the barrier’s three reinforced layers of sheet metal, concrete columns and metal fence edged by razor wire.
“I’m not sure what more they could plan to do here; we have a pretty extensive border wall here already that dates back to Bush, when they raised the height and added more layers,” said Serge Dedina, the mayor of Imperial Beach, who has spent his whole life on the border. “It has significantly changed already. As always with the border, it has nothing to do with reality. We’re the safest beach city in San Diego County.”
Denise Moreno Ducheny, a senior policy adviser at the University of California, San Diego’s Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, condemned Mr. Trump’s vision of a border wall as “a fourth-century solution to a 20th-century problem.”
“If you are going to do more things to secure the border, do it with more intelligence, more technology,” she said. “The whole idea that you are going to build a Great Wall of China between California and Mexico is just silly.”
Some activists in California have used the word “wall” to describe the fencing for years, including Enrique Morones, who leads the group Border Angels, which leaves water and other aid for those crossing through the desert.
“When people hear fence, they think of it as something that you have with your neighbor, not something that has led to the deaths of thousands of people,” he said, pointing to the number of migrants who have moved farther east to more treacherous terrain.
“President Bush, President Obama, they all reinforced what was already there,” he added. “The only difference is they didn’t think it was a major political win for them.”