In response to an executive order stripping sanctuary cities of federal funding signed Wednesday morning by President Donald Trump, immigrants, nonprofit organizers and city legislators rallied in front of City Hall to publicly commit to maintaining protections for immigrants and to reassure one another.
“Your local government is with you,” said District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen. “We’re going to protect every single member of our community.”
Her colleague, District 1 Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, shouted her statement through tears – angry tears, she said.
“I am angry to the core. We can channel this into being united,” Fewer said. “I’m counting on all of you and I hope you’re counting on me too.”
It’s not quite clear how the executive order will affect San Francisco programs, or how the city will weather any cut in federal money. Ronen said the city receives about $1 billion in federal funding, about half of which comes through the state. The challenge for legislators will be to figure out what funding will indeed be cut and how to replace it.
“What I’m doing right now is looking at ways of creating new revenue streams,” Ronen explained after the press conference. “There’s still a lot of questions that we have.”
The Washington Post published an explainer on Sanctuary Cities and writes “funding can only be withheld if it is relevant “to the federal interest in the project.” Cities, counties and states with sanctuary policies get federal money from dozens of different departments, most of which are not related to immigration.”
Still, organizers rallied around 100 people to reaffirm their support for the city’s sanctuary policy, which restricts the circumstances under which local law enforcement communicates with immigration officials about undocumented individuals. They argued that such barriers between local police and immigration enforcement builds trust between police and immigrant communities.
“Because of Trump’s actions today, the safety of people in my community is at risk,” said Father Richard Smith of St. John’s episcopal church in the Mission District. He said immigrants would be made “more reluctant to come forward if doing so will risk having their families torn apart.”
Though she has since attained citizenship, janitor and union organizer Maria Trujillo said at the press conference that she personally felt the fears of deportation among those in her community.
“Now Trump wants to deport millions of workers. We came to work hard, not to rob or harm anyone,” Trujillo said. “This will destroy families throughout the country.”
Above all, organizers called for unity in the face of threats from the federal government, and for continued action.
“Now we are in the fight of our lives. No longer is hateful rhetoric just that anymore. Actions are being taken in the moment to attack us, to attack our values” said SEIU 1021 union organizer Joseph Bryant.
City leaders have been trying to get ahead of the promised increase in deportations under a Trump presidency since the election, with former Supervisor David Campos proposing a roughly $5 million set-aside for nonprofits and the Public Defender to hire immigration lawyers to defend immigrants facing deportation proceedings.
A disagreement between supervisors and the mayor developed over including funding for the Public Defender, and on Tuesday the Board of Supervisors approved the set-aside without the money for the Public Defender.
It’s unclear why the mayor insisted on funding nonprofits only – he told the Examiner only that community-based organizations are effective and have close ties to the immigrants the funding is meant to serve . Those same nonprofits, however, are still holding out hope that some funding will eventually go to the Public Defender.
“Those with criminal charges or criminal pasts will be targeted more aggressively than others…we as [community based organizations] will not be able to meet that growing demand,” explained Lara Kiswani of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center. “And that’s why it was so important to hear decision makers say, today we’re going to ensure that they get the legal defense that they need.”