President Donald Trump’s idea of building a big, hideous wall at the Mexican border is a non-starter for us. It won’t stop illegal immigration, would waste billions of dollars and needlessly antagonizes Mexico – one of our nation’s closest friends.
We doubt even Trump is serious about it, having used the image as a demagogic tool to fire up his base but now apparently willing to negotiate away its funding.
If Trump pandered to his base by demanding the wall, so, too is Sen. Ricardo Lara, a Democrat who wants to pass a law penalizing any California company that helps build it. If such a step is legal, it would send California down a slippery and dangerous slope.
Lara’s Senate Bill 30, similar to measures in the New York Legislature and other jurisdictions, takes aim at any general contractor that might win the main federal contract. But it would extend far beyond that company and sweep up any “individual, partnership, joint venture, or association or any other organization or any combination thereof” that is “providing or has provided goods or services to the federal government for the construction of a federally funded wall, fence, or other barrier.”
Heavy equipment would be used to build a wall. So the boycott would extend to makers of bulldozers and cranes, which also are used on state projects. Since bulldozers and cranes need fuel, the boycott presumably would include companies that sell fuel for state vehicles.
Many contractors are union shops. Though Lara is a reliably pro-labor Democrat, the broad language of his bill suggests the state would stop employing the building trades locals that do the work on state jobs.
We suggest a test for any politician who supports Lara’s political grandstanding. Would those voting for SB 30 take a vow to refuse any political contributions from all of the above? Consistency demands that if the money is too dirty for the state to sully its hands touching, it is too dirty for outraged politicians to take, too.
Consistency notwithstanding, fencing already exists along much of California’s 150-mile border. California lawmakers did not hold companies responsible for building the existing fence up to public scorn or threaten them with lost business.
Doing so because Trump has suggested his silly wall smacks of politics, not good policy.
Lara’s SB 30 passed its first hurdle last week when eight Democrats on the Senate Governmental Organization Committee voted for it. Sens. Bill Dodd, who represents Davis, and Cathleen Galgiani, who represents part of Modesto and Stockton, were among the aye votes. Only one Democrat, Steve Glazer of Orinda, had the good sense to not vote. Republicans opposed it or didn’t vote.
Perhaps the legislators voted for it out of principle. Or maybe they were just trying to make a point. More likely, it’s politics. Every lawmaker knows that Lara chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, and as chairman he has life or death power over every piece of legislation. They cross him at the risk of losing bills that are important to them.
Lara has every right to use his political skills to work to unseat Trump and members of Congress who support the wall. Like any consumer, he can choose not to patronize Trump resorts and shun Trump family products. He could sue to block construction, as could the state itself. All of that we understand and even embrace.
But with his SB 30, Lara would use the state as a partisan battering ram against private companies, transforming the state into a bully. That’s familiar, a little like the occupant of the Oval Office who threatens companies and citizens who dare cross him.