Our Backyard: Missing in Action

Our Backyard: Missing in Action

Trump has threatened Oakland and California, but both have been slow to fight back.

Just 4.6 percent of Oaklanders voted for Donald Trump in the presidential election, and Hillary Clinton won California by a larger margin than Barack Obama. Yet both the city of Oakland and the state of California have been slow to fight back against Trump and his controversial immigration policies, even though the president has threatened to punish them.

Instead, the states of Washington and Minnesota led the early legal battle against Trump’s travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries. And the city of San Francisco—not Oakland—was among the first to sue Trump over an executive order that called for withholding funds from sanctuary cities, even though Oakland also stands to lose huge amounts of federal money.

After Trump was elected, Gov. Jerry Brown styled himself as a leader in the resistance to the new president. And Brown’s nominee for state attorney general, Xavier Becerra, and the legislature’s hiring of Obama Attorney General Eric Holder were heralded as evidence that California would be at the vanguard of legal fights against Trump.

But California only got involved in the case against the Trump travel ban after a federal judge granted a request by Washington and Minnesota for a temporary hold on the ban. And instead of asking the appellate court to intervene in the case, as Hawaii did, California requested to join with other states in filing a friend-of-the-court brief, supporting Washington and Minnesota, even though the travel ban threatens the rights of tens of thousands of Californians and even though the lower court’s ruling raised serious questions about whether Trump’s ban was constitutional.

Similarly, Oakland had yet to file its own lawsuit against Trump or join San Francisco’s suit, even though Oakland officials acknowledge that the city could lose up to $130 million a year if the president’s threat to withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities is fully implemented. And San Francisco, like Washington and Minnesota, appears to have a good case. Legal scholars have said Trump’s order on sanctuary cities violates the constitution’s ban on the federal government requiring states to carry out federal duties—like enforcing immigration laws.

In short, the city of Oakland and the state of California have no excuse for being missing in action during the early fights against Trump, especially considering the political makeup of their constituencies.


Our Backyard is an occasional column by senior editor Robert Gammon.


This column appears in the March edition of Oakland Magazine.

Published online on Feb. 9, 2017 at 11:00 a.m.