Trump executive order threatens Berkeley sanctuary, but city stands firm

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Bay Area officials stood firmly in opposition to an executive order signed Wednesday by President Donald Trump that would target sanctuary cities, such as Berkeley and San Francisco.

The executive order, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” added thousands of agents to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and would strip federal grant money from sanctuary cities that refuse to enforce federal ICE policy — a promise Trump frequently made throughout his presidential campaign.

“I think for our community, it wasn’t a shock that this executive order was going to happen,” said Valeska Castaneda, a recent UC Berkeley graduate who now works at the Alumni Scholars program. “The hardest part is sitting with the unknown, and that’s a lot of how our community feels.”

Castaneda, formerly undocumented, said she is trying to reassure her Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals-recipient students in spite of concerns about what will happen next.

Amid uncertainty as to how the order would affect funding in practice, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin joined the mayors of San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland in a joint press release condemning the order and promising their constituents that local policies would not change.

“I think the most important thing is for them to understand that our city council members and our mayor are not going to stand for that even if it means we (lose) money,” said District 5 City Councilmember Sophie Hahn.

Berkeley, which first declared itself a “City of Refuge” in 1985, could lose millions of dollars in federal funds that currently support programs focused on affordable housing and homelessness, among others.

City spokesperson Matthai Chakko said Berkeley received $11.5 million in federal funds for the 2015 fiscal year, but Berkeley’s total budget for 2017 is approximately $414.6 million. According to the joint mayoral statement, city leaders would collaborate to mitigate impacts on existing programs if federal funds were revoked.

“This is funding for some of our most vulnerable people in our community,” Chakko said.

According to UC Berkeley School of Law professor Leti Volpp, federal grants could not be withheld from the campus unless they were related to Trump’s executive order regarding immigration enforcement. Additionally, Volpp said in an email that the order could be subject to litigation because of potential conflicts with the 10th Amendment.

The UC Office of the President does not consider the university a “sanctuary” university, but the UC Board of Regents’ meeting Wednesday affirmed its support for students’ privacy and its existing pledge not to use campus law enforcement to assist ICE investigations.

“While there is still a lot of uncertainty around what Trump may do next, we stand ready to fight for each and every one our students,” said Paul Monge, UC student regent-designate and a Berkeley Law student, in an email.

Trump’s executive order was one of the many controversial decisions he made during his first week as president. He also signed a different executive order Wednesday to begin construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and suspended immigration from seven countries, including Syria.

“The beauty of Obama’s executive overreach is that now that Trump owns the pen and the phone, he can undo much of it just as easily,” said David Craig, treasurer of Berkeley College Republicans, in an email.

Berkeley Unified School District superintendent Donald Evans sent out a communitywide letter Wednesday opposing the order, reiterating the school district’s policy not to request or share students’ immigration status. That night, the school board unanimously approved a statement reaffirming and adding to its existing policy on protecting its students.

While actions like these help students feel safer, Berkeley High School senior Elijah Liedecker said the community was “flabbergasted” by what felt to him like a unique moment in history.

“I think you have a lot of people wondering, what is their future going to look like?” Liedecker said. “What is after high school going to look like?”

Contact Alexander Barreira and Gibson Chu at [email protected].