Trump Using Refugees as Pawns and Public Policy for Vengeance

April 17, 2019

San Francisco District Attorney candidate Chesa Boudin calls Trump a coward and a bully who should be held legally accountable

As first reported by the Washington Post last week, the Trump administration has discussed placing undocumented immigrants in sanctuary cities, most of which are strongly Democratic cities.

The discussions included senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, who Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) recently called a “white nationalist,” and who the Southern Poverty Law Center has called “a prominent anti-immigrant voice.”

“Trump seems bent on not only deepening the divide in America but using public policy as a tool of vengeance,” The Real News Network's Marc Steiner said in response to the president's plan to place undocumented immigrants in sanctuary cities.

Soon after the Washington Post article was published, Trump administration officials acknowledged the plan was discussed, but said it was roundly dismissed.

Then Trump took to Twitter and proudly owned the idea.

“Due to the fact that Democrats are unwilling to change our very dangerous immigration laws, we are indeed, as reported, giving strong considerations to placing Illegal Immigrants in Sanctuary Cities only,” Trump tweeted on April 12.

Nine states (California, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, and Vermont) and more than 200 cities have declared themselves sanctuaries for immigrants.

“What he's proposing is immoral unethical and illegal and I respond by saying that loudly and clearly. We welcome immigrants here in San Francisco. They are the backbone of this city. They always have been the backbone of our culture, of our workforce, and we're tremendously proud of being a sanctuary city and we're going to continue to be a sanctuary city,” Chesa Boudin a public defender and candidate for States Attorney in San Francisco told Steiner. “Forcibly moving people from one place to another simply based on the country they were born in, treating human beings, immigrants, refugees, as political pawns as a way to create problems for political rivals is unacceptable. It's inhuman and it's illegal.”

Steiner added that in 1971, Berkeley, California offered sanctuary to sailors in the U.S. Navy protesting being sent back to Vietnam, and passed a sanctuary resolution to protect the sailors (see: The East Bay Express' article, “Berkeley Is The Original Sanctuary City”).

“San Francisco and the Bay Area in general have long been leaders of progressive values of technological innovation and of cultural diversity. We're going to continue to play that role,” Boudin said.

Steiner explained that the policy is one of the most stark examples of Trump's racist, nationalistic approach to governance, invoking imagery of “slave ships dumping people in America, or trains taking people in the Holocaust to their deaths.”

“Trump is acting consistent with how he's acted throughout his presidency and much of his life,” Boudin said. “He's acting as a coward, acting as a bully, and he's treating people who are less fortunate than him as political pawns to accomplish an agenda that has nothing to do with furthering the interests of national security, public safety or humanity.”


Trump Using Refugees as Pawns and Public Policy for Vengeance

Story Transcript

MARC STEINER Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Mark Steiner. Great to have you all with us once again. Early this month, Trump tweeted, “Due to the fact that Democrats are unwilling to change our very dangerous immigration laws, we are indeed as reported giving strong considerations to placing illegal immigrants in Sanctuary Cities only,” says Trump. He seems bent on not only deepening the divide in America but using public policy as a tool of vengeance. What exactly would it mean to forcibly move refugees from the borders of the United States, into cities and states that have declared themselves sanctuary cities and states? What would be the reasonable and just immigration policy for this country to be instituted? Nine states and over 200 cities have declared themselves sanctuaries for immigrants. California and the Bay Area are among them. And we are joined by Chesa Boudin, a public defender in the city of San Francisco and now a candidate for district attorney in that city. Chesa, welcome. Good to have you with us here on The Real News Network.

CHESA BOUDIN Thank you so much. It’s great to be here with you as well, Marc.

MARC STEINER Chesa, let me just ask you because if you become state’s attorney in the next election, this will be your bailiwick, in some sense.

CHESA BOUDIN Yes and just F.Y.I., we do call it “district attorney” here in San Francisco.

MARC STEINER I’m sorry. Let me un-Baltimorize that— district attorney. So how would you respond to Mr. Trump?

CHESA BOUDIN Well, look, what he’s proposing is immoral, unethical and illegal, and I’d respond by saying that loudly and clearly. We welcome immigrants here in San Francisco. They are the backbone of this city. They always have been the backbone of our culture, of our workforce. We’re tremendously proud of being a sanctuary city and we’re going to continue to be a sanctuary city, but forcibly moving people from one place to another simply based on the country they were born in, treating human beings, immigrants, refugees, as political pawns, as a way to create problems for political rivals, is unacceptable. It’s inhuman and it’s illegal.

MARC STEINER One of the things, before I play this first clip for you, one of the things that really struck me when I read his tweets, was that it made me think of slave ships dumping people in America or trains taking people in the Holocaust to their deaths. I mean, literally, forcing people to go into a place they don’t want to be and pushing them somewhere under armed guard. That’s the vision that you have when you hear this. At least, that’s the vision I have.

CHESA BOUDIN Absolutely. Trump is acting consistent with how he’s acted throughout his presidency and much of his life. He’s acting as a coward. He’s acting as a bully and he’s treating people who are less fortunate than him as political pawns to accomplish an agenda that has nothing to do with furthering the interests of national security, public safety, or humanity.

MARC STEINER So we’re about to play you a short video clip of the Mayors of Oakland and Seattle and the Governor of California and what they had to say to Trump.

MARC STEINER Chesa, if you were in a position of power, as these people are at this moment locally, what would you be saying to Trump if he’s about to take hundreds, maybe thousands, of people and forcing them to move to the Bay Area of California? What would your response to him be?

MARC STEINER Well thanks, Marc. I want to first of all acknowledge the leadership and the courage of so many of the political leaders in California and across the country in standing up to Trump on this issue, and so many others. What I would say to Trump is first of all, immigrants are safe. They are welcome. They are part of our community. They are a cherished and trusted part of our community and we’re going to continue to welcome immigrants to the Bay Area, but we are not going to forcibly relocate people. We’re not going to participate in turning refugees and immigrants into political pawns. If people do forcibly transport immigrants in violation of the law, it could potentially be a situation of kidnapping or any number of other criminal charges, which we would investigate and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law, if in fact we’re able to do so. We will not participate or condone human trafficking or kidnapping of people who are seeking refuge in our country.

MARC STEINER So on the heels, I think that’s a very powerful statement you just made. I haven’t heard that said by anybody in terms of potential prosecutions against the federal government itself and against Trump, which would be an interesting kind of move, but this is what Fox News had to say.

MARC STEINER So Chesa, what this is, so Fox News is basically saying, the Left is crying about immigrants coming into our country, but now they’re going to whine because we’re going to bring them to San Francisco. We’re going to bring them to other cities around the country, because they can’t stand up to what their own rhetoric, is basically what they’re saying in this clip. So I’m going to come back here. I’m coming back. Here we go.

MARC STEINER So I’m curious. This is an issue around immigration that deeply divides America and I’m curious as somebody trying to build, people trying to build, broader coalitions about what America should be, how do you respond to Fox and how do you respond to the people that may be listening to Fox?

CHESA BOUDIN Well this is fear-mongering, it’s xenophobia, and its racism, plain and simple. It’s unacceptable and it’s a tactic to try to get a racist, xenophobic president reelected despite the fact that he has done nothing but make a mockery of the values that this country holds dear. It’s unacceptable and it’s not true. In San Francisco, we welcome immigrants every day. We have throughout this city’s history and we’re going to continue to do so. That does not mean that forcibly relocating thousands or tens of thousands of people into a single municipality is good policy or is consistent with orderly national security or public safety. It’s not consistent with any of those things. And it’s for that reason that folks are frustrated that Trump would even suggest this kind of outrageous political stunt.

MARC STEINER I’m also very curious about when in these discussions, one of the things that is often missing is how do we perceive and think of a just immigration policy of this country? What does that look like? I’m curious of your thoughts about that because this is going to become, I think, major issues in the political campaigns— both inside the Democratic party, outside the Democratic Party, the general election as a whole— and that’s something we really haven’t grappled with, I think, in any depth in a deep and honest way.

CHESA BOUDIN You’re absolutely right, Marc. There’s a long way to go to realize our potential as a safe haven for people who are persecuted around the world, for the kind of message and symbol that the Statue of Liberty has represented to people all across the world for so many hundreds of years. We should start our immigration policy with a recognition that family unity is a fundamental principle and that people who live in this country who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are participating fully in society, should be able to enjoy family unification. That should be the first starting point and a second starting point, a second principle, should be that we are a safe haven to people being persecuted. No matter where they are, no matter why they’re being persecuted, they can find safe haven in our shores. I think if we start with those principles and if we recognize the fundamental dignity of every single human being on this planet, we’ll do far better than we’re doing today under the Trump administration.

MARC STEINER Finally, there’s one last thought and question for you, Chesa, before we all have to go. In 1971, Berkeley was probably one of the first cities in the country to become a sanctuary city when sailors and others protested being sent back to Vietnam and they declared it a sanctuary, and even a few of the sailors stayed back and were given sanctuary by the city of Berkeley. So people often like to set the Bay Area up, and California up in general, and certain areas of our country up in general, as different from the rest of America. You’re seeing part of this in terms of Trump’s attempt here again to further deepen that divide, as I said in the opening. So how would you respond to that?

CHESA BOUDIN San Francisco and the Bay Area in general have long been leaders of progressive values, of technological innovation, and of cultural diversity. We’re going to continue to play that role. My campaign for district attorney in San Francisco is just another example of the many ways in which San Francisco is far ahead of the national curve in terms of industry, technology, culture, and yes, politics and criminal justice reform.

MARC STEINER Chesa, it’s been a pleasure to talk with you and I look forward to talking to you more about this as it kind of intensifies, as well as the campaign starting for state’s attorney. Good luck with it all and thank you so much for joining us here today on The Real News.

MARC STEINER Thank you so much, Marc. Look forward to speaking with you, as well.

MARC STEINER And I’m Marc Steiner here for The Real News Network. Thank you all for joining us. Take care.

MARC STEINER Chesa, let me just ask you because if you become state’s attorney in the next election, this will be your bailiwick, in some sense.

CHESA BOUDIN Yes and just F.Y.I., we do call it “district attorney” here in San Francisco.

MARC STEINER I’m sorry. Let me un-Baltimorize that– district attorney. So how would you respond to Mr. Trump?

CHESA BOUDIN Well, look, what he’s proposing is immoral, unethical and illegal, and I’d respond by saying that loudly and clearly. We welcome immigrants here in San Francisco. They are the backbone of this city. They always have been the backbone of our culture, of our workforce. We’re tremendously proud of being a sanctuary city and we’re going to continue to be a sanctuary city, but forcibly moving people from one place to another simply based on the country they were born in, treating human beings, immigrants, refugees, as political pawns, as a way to create problems for political rivals, is unacceptable. It’s inhuman and it’s illegal.

MARC STEINER One of the things, before I play this first clip for you, one of the things that really struck me when I read his tweets, was that it made me think of slave ships dumping people in America or trains taking people in the Holocaust to their deaths. I mean, literally, forcing people to go into a place they don’t want to be and pushing them somewhere under armed guard. That’s the vision that you have when you hear this. At least, that’s the vision I have.

CHESA BOUDIN Absolutely. Trump is acting consistent with how he’s acted throughout his presidency and much of his life. He’s acting as a coward. He’s acting as a bully and he’s treating people who are less fortunate than him as political pawns to accomplish an agenda that has nothing to do with furthering the interests of national security, public safety, or humanity.

MARC STEINER So we’re about to play you a short video clip of the Mayors of Oakland and Seattle and the Governor of California and what they had to say to Trump.

MARC STEINER Chesa, if you were in a position of power, as these people are at this moment locally, what would you be saying to Trump if he’s about to take hundreds, maybe thousands, of people and forcing them to move to the Bay Area of California? What would your response to him be?

MARC STEINER Well thanks, Marc. I want to first of all acknowledge the leadership and the courage of so many of the political leaders in California and across the country in standing up to Trump on this issue, and so many others. What I would say to Trump is first of all, immigrants are safe. They are welcome. They are part of our community. They are a cherished and trusted part of our community and we’re going to continue to welcome immigrants to the Bay Area, but we are not going to forcibly relocate people. We’re not going to participate in turning refugees and immigrants into political pawns. If people do forcibly transport immigrants in violation of the law, it could potentially be a situation of kidnapping or any number of other criminal charges, which we would investigate and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law, if in fact we’re able to do so. We will not participate or condone human trafficking or kidnapping of people who are seeking refuge in our country.

MARC STEINER So on the heels, I think that’s a very powerful statement you just made. I haven’t heard that said by anybody in terms of potential prosecutions against the federal government itself and against Trump, which would be an interesting kind of move, but this is what Fox News had to say.

MARC STEINER So Chesa, what this is, so Fox News is basically saying, the Left is crying about immigrants coming into our country, but now they’re going to whine because we’re going to bring them to San Francisco. We’re going to bring them to other cities around the country, because they can’t stand up to what their own rhetoric, is basically what they’re saying in this clip. So I’m going to come back here. I’m coming back. Here we go.

MARC STEINER So I’m curious. This is an issue around immigration that deeply divides America and I’m curious as somebody trying to build, people trying to build, broader coalitions about what America should be, how do you respond to Fox and how do you respond to the people that may be listening to Fox?

CHESA BOUDIN Well this is fear-mongering, it’s xenophobia, and it’s racism, plain and simple. It’s unacceptable and it’s a tactic to try to get a racist, xenophobic president reelected despite the fact that he has done nothing but make a mockery of the values that this country holds dear. It’s unacceptable and it’s not true. In San Francisco, we welcome immigrants every day. We have throughout this city’s history and we’re going to continue to do so. That does not mean that forcibly relocating thousands or tens of thousands of people into a single municipality is good policy, or is consistent with orderly national security or public safety. It’s not consistent with any of those things. And it’s for that reason that folks are frustrated that Trump would even suggest this kind of outrageous political stunt.

MARC STEINER I’m also very curious about when in these discussions, one of the things that is often missing is how do we perceive and think of a just immigration policy of this country? What does that look like? I’m curious of your thoughts about that because this is going to become, I think, major issues in the political campaigns– both inside the Democratic party, outside the Democratic Party, the general election as a whole– and that’s something we really haven’t grappled with, I think, in any depth in a deep and honest way.

CHESA BOUDIN You’re absolutely right, Marc. There’s a long way to go to realize our potential as a safe haven for people who are persecuted around the world, for the kind of message and symbol that the Statue of Liberty has represented to people all across the world for so many hundreds of years. We should start our immigration policy with a recognition that family unity is a fundamental principle and that people who live in this country who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are participating fully in society, should be able to enjoy family unification. That should be the first starting point and a second starting point, a second principle, should be that we are a safe haven to people being persecuted. No matter where they are, no matter why they’re being persecuted, they can find safe haven in our shores. I think if we start with those principles and if we recognize the fundamental dignity of every single human being on this planet, we’ll do far better than we’re doing today under the Trump administration.

MARC STEINER Finally, there’s one last thought and question for you, Chesa, before we all have to go. In 1971, Berkeley was probably one of the first cities in the country to become a sanctuary city when sailors and others protested being sent back to Vietnam and they declared it a sanctuary, and even a few of the sailors stayed back and were given sanctuary by the city of Berkeley. So people often like to set the Bay Area up, and California up in general, and certain areas of our country up in general, as different from the rest of America. You’re seeing part of this in terms of Trump’s attempt here again to further deepen that divide, as I said in the opening. So how would you respond to that?

CHESA BOUDIN San Francisco and the Bay Area in general have long been leaders of progressive values, of technological innovation, and of cultural diversity. We’re going to continue to play that role. My campaign for district attorney in San Francisco is just another example of the many ways in which San Francisco is far ahead of the national curve in terms of industry, technology, culture, and yes, politics and criminal justice reform.

MARC STEINER Chesa, it’s been a pleasure to talk with you and I look forward to talking to you more about this as it kind of intensifies, as well as the campaign starting for state’s attorney. Good luck with it all and thank you so much for joining us here today on The Real News.

MARC STEINER Thank you so much, Marc. Look forward to speaking with you, as well.

MARC STEINER And I’m Marc Steiner here for The Real News Network. Thank you all for joining us. Take care.