Viewpoints

To bully contractors that would build Trump’s wall is offensive

Senate Bill 30, introduced by state Sen. Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens, would prohibit California from awarding or renewing a contract with any person who is providing goods or services to the federal government in the construction of a wall along the U.S-Mexico border.
Senate Bill 30, introduced by state Sen. Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens, would prohibit California from awarding or renewing a contract with any person who is providing goods or services to the federal government in the construction of a wall along the U.S-Mexico border. The Associated Press

The border wall is at least temporarily dead. And no matter what your viewpoint is on illegal immigration, it’s always worth celebrating the defeat, even short-term, of an insanely expensive boondoggle. Even many conservative leaders concede that a wall would be grossly ineffective at accomplishing its goal.

In other good news, President Donald Trump was blocked from withholding federal funding from sanctuary cities. It’s clearly not the job of cities, states or school districts to enforce immigration laws; that’s the federal government’s job. Trump’s threat was rightly seen by the courts and Congress as a destructive grab for revenge against anyone who thinks differently from him, a vindictive attempt to intrude on affairs that are none of his business.

Here’s another thing that’s no more excusable than the first two: California legislation that would blacklist any companies that contract to build the wall – should it ever receive funding – from doing business with the state.

These three related topics probably shouldn’t matter, for the moment, anyway. The president can continue wailing about sanctuary cities and trumpeting about the value of a wall – while the U.S. Border Patrol says what it really needs is more technology and personnel – but at this point he’s talking to himself and to the uninformed people who sadly think immigration issues are actually that simple.

And without the wall, the California legislation by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, has no effect on anything – though he’s pushing it forward, just in case. Yet in these hyperventilated days, we have to care, not just about the obvious racism and illegal power grab by Trump, but also about Lara’s equally offensive attempt to bully businesses.

Here’s what the state can legitimately demand of its contractors: That they provide the best price on bids. That they pay living wages and meet other conditions of employee benefits. That they obey the law and get the work done according to agreement.

What they do outside of that is, to put it bluntly, none of the Legislature’s business. Maybe a contractor for this cockamamie wall, should it ever get underway, will agree with the philosophy behind its construction, no matter how foolishly. Maybe the contractor won’t like it but wants to make a living. It’s the business owner’s right. For that matter, it’s a fair bet that not everyone with a hand in the construction of the bullet train thinks it’s a wonderful idea. But construction companies build things that they contract to build; they’re not hired to make judgments about government policy.

What happens next? Maybe the blacklist creeps outward to include trucking companies that serve the Alaskan oil industry because California rightly continues to battle climate change. Or perhaps it goes the other way; maybe West Virginia the coal state refuses to work with energy companies that help build solar arrays and refuses to do business with anyone who doesn’t help build the wall.

The goal of stopping the wall is a good one, but this tactic is eerily Trumpian, echoing his ugly attempts to use public money and power to shut up and shut down anything with which he disagrees. It also would probably be as ineffective at stopping the wall as the wall would be at ending illegal immigration. The bill is a threat to businesspeople who have a right to hold views different from Lara’s and to engage in actions, totally outside of any work they do for the state, that don’t meet with his approval.

Disagreeing with Trump is one thing. Fighting his ideas that threaten to drag us all down is vital to the nation’s well-being. But imitating his dishonorable tactics of bullying and coercion is, at its heart, rather creepy.

Karin Klein is a freelance journalist in Orange County who has covered education, science and food policy. She can be contacted at karinkleinmedia@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @kklein100.

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