Sanctuary cities need to defeat fear

The United States is a nation of immigrants, and it has been our diversity and inclusiveness that makes us strong. While immigration has been a central theme of our history, so too has resistance. The Know Nothing Party of the 1850s wanted to make America “great” by restricting immigration of Irish Catholics. In the late 1800s, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed to suspend immigrants from China and other groups deemed “undesirable.” During World War II, Japanese-Americans were thrown into internment camps based solely off of fear. History has a way of repeating itself, and today the scapegoats are Muslims and Latinos.

I know many people are rightfully scared of the future. The president has vowed to deport millions of undocumented residents and cut funding to cities and counties that defy these orders. I have spoken with children in our classrooms, and they are scared about what a Trump presidency means for them and their friends. Our undocumented students especially are scared that they may all of a sudden be deported and uprooted from their friends, their schools and their homes. There is a great deal of fear in our community now among our undocumented residents and among our Muslim residents, our LGBT community, communities of color and others.

Let me make this clear: Berkeley has never and will never bow down to fear. Our city will remain a sanctuary city, a policy that has existed in one form or another since 1971. And we are not alone in this fight: Cities throughout the country have also reaffirmed their commitment to protecting the undocumented community and providing a safe haven to those who fear persecution and deportation. By being a sanctuary city, we refuse to cooperate with ICE and federal immigration officials. While Donald Trump may threaten to cut funding, even if this does become a reality, it will not significantly impact Berkeley. No amount of federal funding is worth betraying our Berkeley values.

We need to be building bridges, not walls. Isolationism, division and homogeneity are what lead to mistrust and fear. Inclusiveness, unity and diversity lead to understanding and hope. Locally, we will expand resources to our undocumented community. I want to thank the Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education for reaffirming its commitment to protecting undocumented students. UC campuses should and must become sanctuary campuses. We should and must call on our state officials to make California a sanctuary state. We must also work with cities throughout the country in rising up against anti-immigration policies.

Now more than ever, state and local governments must lead on equity and social justice. We promise that we will rise to the challenge and provide strong leadership to stand for the safety and security of all Berkeley residents and push progressive policies. Amid Berkeley’s moral obligation to protect its residents, Berkeley will be a beacon of light in these dark times. 

Jesse Arreguín is the mayor of Berkeley. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter

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