City of Berkeley officials have condemned President Donald Trump’s statement that he is “considering” releasing immigrants detained at the U.S.-Mexico border into sanctuary cities.
Trump made these comments Friday on Twitter and at a press conference. If his statement results in immigration policy, sanctuary cities such as Berkeley could face an influx of immigrants. Berkeley officials, however, responded to the president’s comments by criticizing Trump’s use of immigrants as a political tool.
Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín said that though the city would welcome immigrants, Trump’s use of immigrants in “political theater” is “immoral.”
“If the president was serious about working with local communities to develop a resettlement program, that’s one conversation, but in reality, he’s using them as pawns on a political chessboard,” Arreguín said. “People are not inanimate objects — they’re human beings. We can’t talk about their fate in such a callous manner.”
Berkeley has held its sanctuary city status since 1971 when it became the first city in the country to do so in order to protect conscientious objectors to the Vietnam War, according to Arreguín’s website.
District 7 City Councilmember Rigel Robinson said in an email that it now falls to local governments to oppose the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
“I’m proud that Berkeley is and will forever be a sanctuary city,” Robinson said in an email. “We need more local governments across the country to step up and resist the heartless policies of this morally bankrupt administration.”
Berkeley is currently considering other sanctuary city legislation, including a Sanctuary Contracting Ordinance that would prohibit the city from entering new public contracts with companies that are data brokers for the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement. The City Council will vote on this ordinance at its regular meeting April 23, according to assistant to the mayor Stefan Elgstrand.
ASUC External Affairs Vice President Nuha Khalfay said in an email that she believes Trump’s comments were meant to “shame” cities that have supported immigrants.
“Berkeley should be proud to be a sanctuary city,” Khalfay said in an email. “There are a number of undocumented students at UC Berkeley, and the university should continue to support these students with student life, mental health, and legal resources.”
Though Trump’s comments are not currently backed by policy, complying with such a statement could pose challenges for Berkeley. If enacted, it would raise important questions regarding housing and other resources and require collaboration with the state and governor’s office, according to Arreguín.
“We will step in and welcome and serve these people,” Arreguín said. “But to do it without coordination with local and state government is irresponsible. It shows the callous nature of this administration.”