Libby Schaaf is the mayor of Oakland, Calif.
When President Trump was admonishing Attorney General Jeff Sessions to charge me with obstruction of justice Wednesday, I was at Harvard University sharing how we intend to give every child from Oakland, Calif., the opportunity to attend college.
Like all cities, Oakland suffers from disparities. Our African American and Latino children finish college at vastly lower rates than whites. That achievement gap is a tragic legacy of our country’s racist history.
I sought elected office to fix that — to build an equitable city where every resident, from every neighborhood and background, has the same opportunity to thrive. I believe in the American promise of “justice for all.”
Mr. President, I am not obstructing justice. I am seeking it.
The president takes issue with a tweet I posted in February in which I notified residents of an impending raid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the Bay Area, including Oakland. I wanted to make sure that people were prepared, not panicked, and that they understood their legal rights.
I did this for people such as Maria Mendoza-Sanchez, who immigrated to the United States from Mexico 24 years ago . She learned English, earned a degree and worked as a nurse in the cancer ward of Oakland’s public hospital. She and her husband, Eusebio, raised four children and bought a home.
“It’s supposed to be that if you assimilate to the culture of the country, you pay taxes, you work, you graduate college, you have a better chance,” Mendoza-Sanchez told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Last August, Mendoza-Sanchez and her husband were deported. They were ripped from their U.S.-born children — exiled to a country they had not set foot in for two decades. And they were taken from Oakland, where they had contributed to our community’s collective health, well-being and safety.
Under the Obama administration, Mendoza-Sanchez’s status — with a clean record, a good job and college-bound children — made her and her husband eligible for deferrals as they sought citizenship. But under the Trump administration, undocumented residents are vilified as “dangerous criminals” or, as of last week — simply “animals.” Trump has more than doubled deportations of people without any criminal convictions.
There are people like Mendoza-Sanchez in communities across our country: hard-working, tax-paying, law-abiding. They are parents, neighbors and caretakers. Their stories may have begun in another country, but — to our blessing and advantage — continue in ours.
They deserve justice too.
Far from the days when Trump’s Scottish mother gained her naturalization so easily, today’s immigration system is broken. It separates families, endangers our economy that relies on a substantial undocumented workforce and doesn’t provide legal representation to those seeking political asylum.
As mayor, it’s my duty to protect my residents — especially when our most vulnerable are unjustly attacked. As a leader, it’s my duty to call out this administration’s anti-immigrant fearmongering for what it is: a racist lie.
It’s well documented that immigrants — even undocumented immigrants — commit fewer crimes than American-born citizens. And diverse, sanctuary cities such as Oakland are seeing dramatic decreases in crime.
Back at Harvard, I was proud to show how our community has increased the number of college- enrolled, African American students by 14 percent and Latino students by 11 percent in just one year. We’re determined to close the achievement gap one student, one family and one community at a time.
We call our plan the Oakland Promise. It exemplifies America’s promise. Because Oakland doesn’t obstruct justice, we seek it.
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