I’m not going to mince words: An authoritarian government is trying to force its executive bigotry down our throats.
To push their extreme agenda, the white nationalists in the White House are peddling false fear-mongering that criminalizes communities of color. It’s as if the worst comments on an online message board were running the country.
California’s gotta stand up and say: Hell no.
From airports to detention centers, we have to fight for equality and compassion for all. We can’t leave a single Californian behind.
That’s why passing the California Values Act, Senate Bill 54, by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, is so urgent. Our families, communities and civil liberties are at stake.
The Values Act builds on a law I spent years fighting to pass, the TRUST Act. At issue: dangerous entanglement between local law enforcement – who, let’s be real, may already have frayed relations with many communities – and a deportation system that even under President Barack Obama operated with cruelty and deception.
This collusion is a huge part of the mass incarceration and deportation scheme the Trump administration is pushing. It makes us all less safe.
The Values Act would make sure not one dime of our local or state resources abets mass deportations. Plus, schools, courts and hospitals would make plans to keep out Immigration and Customs Enforcement. We’ll still have to fight ICE’s own abuses, but this will be a big check.
My bill, passed in 2013, limited – but did not end – local involvement in deportations. With activists across the state, we pushed hard to get what was politically possible then. We protected many – but a lot of Californians got left out.
Take Jose Alvarez, father of six U.S. citizens, deported after a traffic stop last year in Long Beach. He had a drug felony over 20 years ago.
In this new political moment, stories like Jose’s remind us we have to take new steps to defend our deepest values.
Let me address the “boogeyman” argument head on. Some ask about people with records. Didn’t Obama endorse deporting “felons, not families?”
I’m a big Obama fan, but I think he messed up here.
Rather than embracing human rights and resisting stereotypes, he gave too much ground to anti-immigrant memes that ignore the complexity of people’s lives. Jose, for example, had an old felony – but also a loving family, deeply rooted in the community, that’s been torn apart.
Right-wing language dividing immigrants into “good” and “bad” actually paved the way for more abuses. When you feed the trolls, they only get hungrier.
My perspective draws from my own experience as a gay activist. If you’ve seen the movie “Milk,” you’ll remember the vicious campaign to fire all LGBTQ schoolteachers – including me – to “save our children.”
To beat this nonsense, we didn’t concede anything to the lie we were somehow inherently more “dangerous” than any other group of human beings. Instead, we unapologetically came out and defeated that hateful initiative. (Of course, the struggle for LGBTQ equality is nowhere near done, as ICE’s recent arrest of a transgender domestic violence survivor in Texas shows.)
Now, in the small minority of cases where someone who happens to be part of an oppressed group commits harm, we shouldn’t create a separate, unequal system of punishment for whole categories of people. We should use the same systems of justice and rehabilitation that everyone faces – and continue working to transform those systems.
As we fight to uphold our values, we’ve gotta steer clear of dehumanizing rhetoric and policies. Now is no time to feed the trolls.
Tom Ammiano is a former state Assemblymember and former president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org