From Consortium News
Artists work on a sign that reads 'Deport Trump' during the presidential inauguration. January 20, 2017.
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The new mayor of the "People's Republic of Berkeley," Jesse Arreguin, is facing a trial by fire. The son and grandson of farmworkers and the first Latino to ever be elected mayor of Berkeley, California, Arreguin finds himself on the frontlines of the "sanctuary city" movement and in the cross hairs of President Donald Trump's anti-immigrant policies.
I spoke with Mayor Arreguin on Wednesday after Trump signed several executive orders aimed at undocumented immigrants and challenging so-called "sanctuary cities." Arreguin said he had spoken to many immigrant students in city schools who are not sure what is coming next.
Dennis Bernstein: I wanted to begin, first, by asking you to give us your own response, sort of to the overall, what's going on. And then we're going to talk about the implications and how you feel in terms of continuing Berkeley as a sanctuary city.
Jesse Arreguin: Well, in just two days, Donald Trump has not only set us on a course of ruining our planet, by fast-tracking the approval of the Keystone Pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline, but also stripped the civil rights and civil liberties of our citizens, has pushed a divisive wall, [and] is now threatening cities which had the courage to stand up for being a city refuge for all people, regardless of their citizenship status. And Berkeley is one of those cities.
And so, I'm angry. And I'm concerned about what the executive order the President signed today [Jan. 25] means for the people of Berkeley, and undocumented people throughout our country. And, now, more than ever, we're going to stand up, and protect everyone, regardless of their national origin, their religion. And, I think, now more than ever, Berkeley needs to be a leader in the resistance against the Trump administration.
DB: I was going to ask you that; People have always looked to Berkeley. You know, they refer to it as the "People's Republic of Berkeley." [...] We've been on the cutting edge when it comes to conscience and action, so I'm sure the whole world is watching.
Have you been hearing from some of your constituents? ... Is there fear in the community? Are the kids...we're right across the street from Berkeley High School. There's a good number of kids in there who are probably feeling like maybe they should go into hiding. How's that coming to you?
JA: Absolutely, there's a great deal of fear in the community. And actually, after the election, I visited a number of our schools, including some of our middle-schools and elementary schools. And there are a lot of students who were very concerned about what the election of Trump means for not just them but their classmates. Including their classmates who are undocumented. You know, being uprooted from their schools, from their families, dividing families, dividing communities. And I spoke to these students to try to reassure them that Berkeley will remain a sanctuary city. And "we're here to support you."
So, we're actually going to be working with the University of California, with the Berkeley Unified School District, to try to... sort of coordinate our resources, our legal resources, and our other resources for undocumented residents. Because we need to help people defend against deportations. We need to help people... families are being divided. But there's a great deal of fear.
But, I want to say that the City of Berkeley stands with everyone, regardless of their citizenship status. And we will protect our residents, and ... our city employees are instructed to not, in any way, cooperate with ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement]. We refuse to cooperate with ICE, but we do need to be prepared, for what if ICE comes in our community. What are we going to do?
A popular anti-Trump slogan, 'Respect my existence or expect my resistance'.
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DB: What are you going to do? Are there preparations, is there a lot of planning?
JA: So, we're beginning to think about that, and plan for that. It happened before, in 2007, ICE came onto the Berkeley High campus to try to identify and detain students. And that's actually where our sanctuary policy came out of. So, it's happened before. Sadly, it is likely to happen again. But we will fight back.
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