United States

California boosts anti-Trump resistance by becoming 'sanctuary' state

Drew Angerer, Getty Images, AFP | Immigration rights activists protest against the Trump administration's termination of DACA, September 14, 2017 in New York City.

California declared itself a “sanctuary" state over the weekend, showing the world that resistance to the Trump administration continues to gain traction throughout the United States.


US President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the Paris climate accord and his crackdown on illegal immigration have divided the United States and fostered a robust opposition, of which California is a prime example.

On Saturday, lawmakers in the “Golden State” approved the California Values Act, legislation designed to protect immigrants without legal residency in the US that is the most far-reaching of its kind in the country. The law limits how much state and local law enforcement have to communicate with federal immigration authorities. It comes hot on the heels of the US government’s announcement earlier this month that it was scrapping the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, which shields illegal immigrants who arrived as children from deportation.

First sanctuary state

California is the first state to adopt this “sanctuary” status, but more than 400 sanctuary cities and jurisdictions throughout the United States have already adopted new policies on how much local authorities will cooperate with federal immigration agencies. Although sanctuary cities are not new – they started in Los Angeles in the 1980s to encourage immigrant communities to cooperate with the police – the number of sanctuary jurisdictions has risen since Trump was elected.

These cities – and their mayors – have played a major role in the anti-Trump resistance. Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord in June drew nationwide condemnation and spurred dozens of cities into action.

Only a day after Trump’s announcement, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an order committing the city to the goals of the Paris Agreement. “This is a dagger aimed straight at the heart of New York City,” de Blasio tweeted that day. “NYC sticks with Paris agreement, despite Trump.”

'We’re not going to stop'

San Francisco also took matters into its own hands by introducing a resolution committing to the terms of the Paris accord. “I think it’s important San Francisco goes on record as a city that it is committed to this agreement, regardless,” said London Breed, president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, in comments to The Guardian. “We’re not going to stop doing what we do best.”

As the world reeled in the aftermath of Trump’s announcement, coalitions in the United States sprung up to stave off the impact of the Paris withdrawal. New York’s former mayor, Michael Bloomberg, corralled cities, local governments, states, business leaders and universities into a coalition pledging to commit to the Paris accord.

“We are already halfway there,” said Bloomberg at the time. “…and we can accelerate our progress further, even without any support from Washington.” Bloomberg, who is also the UN secretary-general’s special envoy for cities and climate change, has donated millions of dollars to the UN climate secretariat through his foundation.

States also leapt into action with the US Climate Alliance. California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachussets, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Puerto Rico crossed party lines and joined forces pledging to mitigate the impact of climate change. All together, the population of these states represents almost a third of the US population.

"We traditionally point to Washington as propagating foreign policy," David Victor, a professor of international relations at UC San Diego, told theLos Angeles Times.

"But when Washington leaves the scene on important topics like climate change, others fill in.”

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