Responding to anti-Muslim rhetoric, policies and actions of the Trump administration, San Francisco became the first US city to preemptively prohibit participation in any religion-based registry.
Mayor Ed Lee on Monday signed the Non-Cooperation With Identity-Based Registry Ordinance, legislation which prohibits the City “from using resources to create, implement, provide investigation or information for, enforce, or otherwise assist or support any government program requiring the registration of individuals on the basis of religion, national origin, or ethnicity; or creating a database of individuals on the basis of religion, national origin, or ethnicity.”
“Basically we’re saying, ‘no registry,’” Lee told reporters as he stood with cheering city leaders and human rights advocates after signing the measure into law. “This signing today reaffirms our sanctuary city,” Lee continued. “Despite what’s happening nationally, we’ll continue the fight against discrimination and anti-immigrant sentiments.”
The new law “has reaffirmed to our entire nation what San Francisco’s values are and to what lengths we will go to protect the lives, livelihood, dignity, and the human and constitutional rights of our citizens,” Human Rights Commissioner Hala Hijazi wrote in a Facebook post announcing the measure.
A broad coalition contributed to the new ordinance, including the Asian Law Caucus, the San Francisco Bay Area of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Arab Resource and Organizing Center, the Alliance of South Asians Taking Action, the National Lawyers Guild-Bay Area and the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California.
Prior to the mayor’s signing, the ordinance, which was introduced by Lee and District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen, had been approved in a unanimous 11-0 Board of Supervisors vote. “We are doing this because the Muslim community and the immigrant community in general across the United States is facing dangerous discrimination by the government of the United States,” District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen explained last month while working on the measure.
Ronen, who worked to strengthen the legislation with amendments empowering individuals and nonprofit organizations to sue violators, reminded a Board of Supervisors hearing last month that a World War II-era registry led to the wholesale roundup and imprisonment of West Coast Japanese Americans — including thousands of San Franciscans — in concentration camps. “It’s part of history that we need to learn from and not repeat,” stressed Ronen. “By creating the strongest law possible, we are sending the message that we will never participate in that type of discrimination again.”
Many San Franciscans are outraged by the Trump administration’s anti-Muslim agenda. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump called not only for a Muslim registry but also for a total ban on Muslim immigration and travel to the United States, a theme he revisited after his election with two short-lived bans on travelers from numerous majority-Muslim nations. The first of those two bans was blocked by a three-judge panel of the San Francisco-based Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals.
While campaigning, Trump also vowed to “bomb the shit out of” Islamic State militants and kill their innocent families. Since becoming commander-in-chief, reports of mass civilian casualties caused by US bombs and bullets in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan have increased dramatically.
Trump’s associations and cabinet appointments have also alarmed many San Francisco residents and officials. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has called Islam a “toxic ideology.” Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson has compared Syrian refugees to rabid dogs. CIA Director Mike Pompeo has accused Muslim American leaders who refuse to condemn Islamist terror attacks of “complicity.” Chief White House adviser Stephen Bannon, founder of the white nationalist platform Breitbart.com, has praised white supremacist leaders. Just this week, the White House welcomed Brigitte Gabriel, founder of the nation’s largest anti-Muslim organization, ACT for America, a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group.
Anti-Muslim voices have undoubtedly shaped administration policy, from the attempted Muslim bans to lesser-noticed moves like a plan to rename and reshape a federal program targeting all violent extremism to focus exclusively on “radical Islam.” This, despite the fact that Americans are more likely to be killed by lightning, falling furniture, armed toddlers or right-wing extremists in the United States than by Muslim terrorists.
Residents of the famously progressive city have wasted no time in challenging Trump, from turning up by the tens of thousands to protest for women’s rights to becoming the first major US city to sue the administration over its executive order seeking to strip sanctuary cities of federal funding. Residents and officials alike point to the preemptive religion registry ban as but the latest in what will surely be many acts of resistance to come, and expressed pride that their city is fighting back.
“As a public servant for over 16 years and as Commissioner on the Human Rights Commission, this is one of my proudest days,” wrote Hijazi, who is no stranger to being targeted by right-wing, anti-Islam operatives. “Love, justice, faith, our constitution, and SF will always TRUMP hate, arrogance, ignorance, and indifference!”