On Tuesday, Berkeley became one of the first cities in the United States to divest from companies involved in the Trump administration’s construction of a border wall.
The city council unanimously passed the resolution that called for divestment and denounced President Donald Trump’s Jan. 25 executive order, which authorized the construction of a United States-Mexico border wall. The resolution, authored by Councilmember Ben Bartlett and co-sponsored by Mayor Jesse Arreguín, called the proposed wall a waste of taxpayer money and detrimentally harmful to the environment.
“I’m committed to California’s long-term growth, and when I heard about this border wall, I knew I had to do something,” Bartlett said. “One way to affect policy is through money, budget and municipal financing, not only to reflect our values but also to administer our values.”
The resolution calls on the city of Berkeley to examine the existing companies it does business with, and vet firms before entering into new contracts, to ensure that the city does not enter into new agreements with businesses that are participating in the construction of a border wall. Bartlett said his resolution aims to dissuade any businesses from pursuing involvement in any stage of potential border wall construction, including “developing, planning, financing (and) marketing the proposed wall.”
Arreguín stated that Berkeley has always been on the forefront of social change, and compared this resolution to the city’s 1979 divestment from apartheid South Africa.
“That economic pressure made a huge impact in forcing (the) South African government to change (its) racist and discriminatory policy,” Arreguín said. “That is the power we have as (a) municipality to affect social change.”
Arreguín said he believed this resolution could make an impact in two ways. First, Arreguín said he felt socially responsible spending of local taxpayer dollars is a way for the city to take a stand against the border wall. Second, Arreguín said he hopes to send a message to other cities to follow Berkeley’s lead. According to Arreguín, encouraging other cities to take similar action could put greater pressure on firms to choose not to be involved in the border wall project.
Councilmember Sophie Hahn supported the resolution, noting that “we need to use every mechanism and every power we have to resist this very harmful type of action.” Hahn said she expected many other communities to follow suit, saying she believed the cities of Oakland and Richmond had similar propositions in their legislative pipelines. Hahn said she hoped “cities that believe in diversity and inclusion, immigrants and people of different backgrounds, will join us.”
“This proposed wall is divisive … it’s counterproductive to our economic well-being and morally destructive,” Bartlett said. “We need longer tables, not higher walls.”