The Vanguard for ten years has been an evolving project, but from day one until now, one of the chief things that I think the Vanguard brings to the community is the ability to ask questions that no one else wants to ask, and to address uncomfortable issues.
Since last week, one thing that has troubled me is that, while life has to go on after any major tectonic shift, the continuation of business as usual has seemed almost trite and petty. We have begun new discussions, but we have also continued previous discussions on land use issues – the Russell fields, Richards Boulevard, etc.
I don’t want to say that those things are unimportant, but there are people in our community whose very lives may hang in the balance. People are afraid. Already there is talk about increasing deportations which will impact many in our community.
Yesterday came the news that the Trump team is now mulling over the idea of a Muslim registry and the possible push to rapidly construct a Mexican border wall without additional congressional approval.
While I may remain opposed to new housing on Russell, Howard and Toomey Fields, it seems a much smaller matter in my life than it might have two weeks ago.
Last night the Davis Human Relations Commission unanimously pushed for the city council to reaffirm Davis’ status as a Sanctuary City. That status was unanimously affirmed by the Davis City Council just two years ago on a 5-0 vote.
The language from that resolution included “the City of Davis supports a fair and just reform to the immigration process, where local funds and resources are not used to enforce federal immigration laws, and where the Davis Police Department has actively committed not to seek out and persecute individuals within the city limits because of their documented status.”
The language concludes, “BE IT RESOLVED by the City Council that the City of Davis once again reaffirms its declaration as a City of Sanctuary, recognizing its past commitment both to refugees and undocumented migrants to this country, and provides itself as a safe community until they can return to their homelands or until they receive federally-recognized residency in the United States…”
Davis would follow in the footsteps of cities like San Francisco who have committed to continuing their programs even the face of loss of federal funding. Davis has a somewhat different structure than cities like New York, L.A., and San Francisco, which do not hold undocumented inmates in jail at the request of the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement unless the detainer request is accompanied by a judge’s order.
If the Trump administration wants to withhold funding from Davis it could impact things like transportation funding, grants, and CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) funds. But then again, such things could disappear under a Trump administration anyway.
Supporting things like the Sanctuary City are important – there is a growing immigrant population and last night the HRC pushed further to ask the city to encourage the school district to become a sanctuary school district.
Watching the video of Robb Davis’ speech at Central Park and the huge community showing at that event are certainly things to take pride in.
However, it also leads to questions. The question is, if Davis is to become a safe place for people of color and vulnerable populations, and a sanctuary to immigrants – how do we reconcile that with our restrictive land use policies?
Are we saying to these populations – hey, Davis is a safe place for you, but sorry if you can’t afford to live here and sorry if there is no housing for you. Go live over there, but we are friendly and inviting.
This is a question we need to struggle with. What is our identity? Are we simply an elitist community which stands up for principles when they are convenient and makes excuses when they are not? Are we saying, hey we sympathize with the tired and huddled masses so long as they don’t try to live in our neighborhood?
I don’t have a good answer for this. I have chosen to make Davis my home and my family’s home, despite the fact it may mean we never own a home.
For those who wish to end things like Measure R – it is not a black and white issue. The issue of the need for productive farmland and food production is huge. In the face of global warming and climate change, where we were just starting to make progress, we now put the fate of the world in the hands of a climate change denier.
UC Davis wants to be a leader in innovation, addressing issues like food insecurity and hunger, and here we are living on the edge of world-class farmland that has been under constant threat of development and those pressures will only increase.
So, I don’t have a good answer for how to reconcile a number of partially competing but equally important principles, but I am very much bothered by the disconnect between the ideals put forth in the sanctuary city resolution and our restrictive land use policies – that make it more and more difficult for refugees and immigrant populations to take sanctuary in our community.
But finally, for far too long we have allowed issues of land use to divide us among ourselves. We may not be able to reconcile these great conflicts, we may not be able to agree on the best way forward, but somehow and in some way we have to remember that we have more in common than we have against each other, and we must figure out a way to put aside our differences and find a way forward.
The new world order no longer permits the luxury of petty differences and disputes.
—David M. Greenwald reporting