OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | A sense of dread over the incoming presidency of Donald Trump may have been alleviated at least for a few hours Tuesday after the Oakland City Council unanimously approved a resolution reaffirming its status as a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants.
The decision is seen as a rebuke, however of Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric during the presidential campaign and fears his administration may strip federal funding to the city as result of its status. Oakland has designated itself as a sanctuary city since 1986.
Tuesday night’s resolution also urges the state legislature to become a statewide sanctuary for undocumented immigrants.
"Given the power of California, as the sixth largest economy in the world, as a state we can throw a monkey wrench in this regime," said Pamela Drake, an Oakland activist and local Democratic Central Committee member.
A sizable amount of fear and consternation toward the incoming administration was palpable, from numerous public speakers to members of the council.
"It’s supposed to be a joyous time of the year, but this year people are genuinely scared," said Councilmember Abel Guillen. Calling the issue of immigration a “personal issue,” Guillen recounted a conversation on Thanksgiving with an 8-year-old family member who worries about a future with Trump as president. "This country was built by immigrants and it's important to remember that," he added.
While some councilmembers noted the resolution was a small, symbolic gesture, it nevertheless represents a call for the community to fight for the most vulnerable among them.
"There will be lots of just justice we will need to stand up for,” said Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan.
Characteristically coarse, Councilmember Desley Brooks noted the city’s African American communities need also be wary of Trump. She lamented, "So many people voted for this clown knowing who he is."
Later, emergency room physicians from Oakland’s Highland Hospital declared they would dismiss any federal laws precluding them from giving care to undocumented patients.
Despite the defiance of Oakland and other Bay Area cities to defend its status as a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants, it could come with some real risks if the Trump administration pushes for penalizing them by withholding federal dollars. The loss of funding could hamper the city’s fiscal budget, already struggling to maintain or expand its services.