Berkeley won’t have anything to do with the construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall, for which $4.1 billion was allocated in the budget plan released by President Donald Trump Thursday.
This week the City Council voted to be the first city in the nation to “divest” from businesses involved in the construction of a border wall. On Tuesday, the council denounced Trump’s January executive order directing the construction of the wall, and directed the Peace and Justice Commission to identify companies involved in paying for, or building, the wall. Berkeley will slash any existing contracts with those businesses “as soon as practical.”
“We as a community do not stand for building walls, but breaking down walls,” said Mayor Jesse Arreguín, who sponsored the item with Council members Ben Bartlett, Lori Droste and Cheryl Davila, at the meeting. “We’re not going to stand for what I think are racist and xenophobic policies that marginalize our immigrant population.”
Many in the Old City Hall chamber cheered in response to the mayor’s pronouncement.
“It’s important that our values are reflected in our budgets and in our partnerships,” Bartlett said.
The council agenda item stressed how damaging the wall would be to the Latino population, stating: “The City of Berkeley recognizes the harm and stigma such action causes Latino people in California and throughout the nation. We recognize that immigration has been a part of our country’s history since its founding and do not believe in demonizing people of Mexican and Latin American descent.” Arreguín is Berkeley’s first Latino mayor.
The item also said building a border wall “would waste an enormous amount of taxpayer money, hurt the environment, contribute to climate change, divide ancestral native lands, disrupt tribal communities, increase international tensions, and reinforce failed Cold War policies of isolationism and exclusion.” (Read the agenda item.)
In a similar move, the council is also considering severing ties with Wells Fargo because of the bank’s investment in the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The East Bay Express reports that several Bay Area-based companies — including some contracted with BART and other local government agencies — are among the hundreds that have expressed interest in working on the border wall. Oakland is considering divestment as well.
On the same day Trump signed the executive order to build the border wall, he signed another threatening to withdraw federal funds from sanctuary cities. Arreguin has said he remains committed to preserving Berkeley’s status as a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants.
Berkeley received $11.5 million in federal funds in 2015, but it is unclear how much of that the city would lose under Trump’s order.