Pledging a united front to protect migrants, local policymakers, school officials and law enforcement on Saturday issued a rallying cry to protest the recent executive orders by President Donald Trump. At the city-sponsored Civility Roundtable event, panel members gave repeated assurances to a crowd of about 200 that they would look to safeguard the full patchwork of the South Bay community, and they invited everyone to join them in the effort.
"It sort of feels that everything we cherish about this county is under attack or at least under deep scrutiny," said Mountain View City Councilman Lenny Siegel, reading a letter from Mayor Ken Rosenberg, who could not attend the event. "It's at times like this that we must defend what we believe is right and just -- this is what it means to be American."
Dubbed "Affirming Mountain View's Values and Building Community in Times of Uncertainty," the roundtable on Saturday morning, Feb. 11, was moved to the main stage of the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts to accommodate the crowd. Among the speakers on the eight-person panel were Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, Mountain View Police Chief Max Bosel, and administrators from all three public school districts serving the city.
Spending almost two months organizing the Saturday discussion, the Mountain View Human Relations Commission tried to avoid framing the event as a broadside against Trump so that a wider range of perspectives could be shared. But if any supporters of the new president were in the audience, they kept mum.
As president, Trump followed through on his divisive campaign rhetoric by signing a series of executive orders. Late last month, he issued edicts to bar residents from seven mostly Muslim countries and to begin deportations of undocumented residents convicted of crimes. In doing so, he threatened to remove federal funding for so-called sanctuary cities that refused to cooperate with federal immigration officials.
The actions put the Bay Area in the cross hairs. The most active participant on the panel, Simitian pointed out that Santa Clara County could stand to lose out on "$300 million to $1.5 billion" in federal funding if the president's threat is carried out. But he described such an action as an illegal taking of public funds, pointing out the county had recently filed a lawsuit against the measure in court.
In addition, the county supervisors had also signed a resolution opposing the ban on residents from the seven predominantly Muslim countries entering the U.S., created a funding pool for legal aid for undocumented residents, and established a "federal affairs advocacy task force" to keep a close eye on the new administration's actions, Simitian said.
But Simitian and other speakers asserted they couldn't take on this resistance effort alone, and they urged more citizens to stay engaged in politics.
"The challenge right now is to mitigate the damage for the next few years," he said. "I have absolutely no doubt that the values that we cherish and the community we care about will come out stronger."
Mountain View Whisman Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph described efforts to conduct cultural-sensitivity training and announced a forthcoming survey to determine if there's been any rise in bullying, intimidation or charged rhetoric since the election. Other superintendents pointed out how their respective school boards have signed resolutions to show their opposition to Trump's executive orders.
Law enforcement officials were more technical in their reaction to the new federal policies. Police Chief Bosel explained how his officers needed cooperation from the undocumented community to ensure public safety. His officers don't enforce immigration law as part of standard protocol unless an undocumented suspect is convicted of a crime, he said. The decision on whether to pass along a suspect to immigration officials depends on the "totality of circumstances," he said, adding that those situations are rare.
"Regardless of nationality, we provide police services," he said. "It's not a matter of political correctness; it's a matter of establishing safety in the public interest."
Members of the public asked about how individuals could best make shows of civil disobedience. Jay Boyarsky, chief assistant district attorney for Santa Clara County, said all citizens were free to exercise their rights to assemble and speak out, but his office would not tolerate vandalism or theft stemming from any political protest.
One questioner asked about a likely future scenario: What would happen if Trump comes to visit Silicon Valley? In all likelihood, the president would fly into Moffett Federal Airfield and an entourage of local leaders would be invited to greet him.
Speaking for Mountain View, Siegel could only hint at what would happen.
"We've talked about this -- but I don't want to say what we've talked about," Siegel said. "Let me assure you that we won't greet him quite in the way that we greeted President Obama."