Any businesses that participate in building President Donald Trump’s border wall won’t be working on contracts with the city of Berkeley — and possibly other cities. Berkeley City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to divest of any company that involves itself with Trump’s wall, the East Bay Express reports. The measure includes any company that designs, finances or works in any way on the project, as well as the contractors who construct the wall.
The White House budget plan released Thursday calls for a $2 billion down payment on the wall. It’s one of the single largest investments in the plan, but will likely cover only a portion of what Trump has said he intends to build.
“Our city is one that is known for breaking down walls, not building them,” Mayor Jesse Arreguin told the Express. “We will continue in that tradition regardless of what happens at the federal level.”
Once the federal government accepts contracts for the design and construction of the wall, Berkeley staff will compile a list of all companies involved and ban the city from working on contracts with those businesses.
Berkeley is the first city in the U.S. to pass such a law, but it may not be the last. New York City Public Advocate Letitia James says she wants to cut off companies that help build the structure. Oakland also introduced similar legislation Tuesday morning, led by Council Member Abel Guillén, who says cities should use their financial and social leverage to send a statement of inclusion.
“We want to send a message to other cities in the state of California … to come out and say that our tax dollars should not be spent on the wall,” Guillén told Express in February.
There is some precedent for the measures. When Arizona passed a controversial anti-immigration law in 2010 (Senate Bill 1070), Oakland City Council urged against city contracts with any businesses based in Arizona and boycotted travel by city employees to anywhere in the state.
The federal government recently extended its deadline for bids for the wall, with no date for a formal RFP notice. Kriston Capps at CityLab reported Wednesday on the difficulty of finding companies to work on the project:
“More than 600 companies, most of them small and lacking in significant experience working for the federal government, have attached their names to the list of interested vendors. But the foundation for Trump’s border wall is shifting like the sands of the Chihuahuan Desert. Even as DHS fiddles with the language of its early notice, political maneuvers may be raising the cost of participating in the bidding process higher than any firm can bear.”
The potential negative PR from designing and building Trump’s wall, as well as the divestment movement, is likely putting off many firms from signing on. According to CityLab, no global company with the experience needed to execute such an extensive project has submitted a proposal so far.
Kelsey E. Thomas is a writer and editor based in the most upper-left corner of the country. She writes about urban policy, equitable development and the outdoors (but also about nearly everything else) with a focus on solutions-oriented journalism. She is a former associate editor and current contributing editor at Next City.