San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen told T.Y. Lin International, an engineering and design firm reportedly interested in working on the U.S. border wall proposed by President Donald Trump, to "stick to building bridges" during a news conference outside the company's offices in the city's Financial District today.
T.Y. Lin has contributed to a number of major infrastructure projects in the Bay Area, including the replacement of the eastern span of the Bay Bridge, a public access project on Pier 7 as well as seismic retrofitting of five underground BART stations in San Francisco and Oakland, according to Ronen.
Ronen also identified Hensel Phelps Construction Co. and the Tutor Perini Corporation as firms that are interested in working on the Mexico border wall and currently have hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts with San Francisco.
At today's board meeting, she is introducing legislation that would bar any company contracting to build the wall from bidding on future city contracts. Doing business with such companies would be out of line with the city's values, according to Ronen.
"Immigration is driven by parents seeking a better life for their children," Ronen said. "As the richest and most powerful nation in the world, we should be setting the bar for how to treat the most vulnerable among us."
Exceptions could be made if a company contracting to build the wall is also the only available provider of goods or services vital to the city's public safety, or in the event of an emergency, but Ronen declined to identify specific providers that would be eligible for such exceptions.
Ronen was joined by Oakland City Councilman Abel Guillen and Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin. Representatives from advocacy organizations Causa Justa and La Colectiva de Mujeres also spoke at the news conference.
Alejandra Rosero is a staff attorney at Dolores Street Community Services with experience working with immigrant families along the border in Texas.
"These folks that I met were not criminals, were not rapists. They were fathers, mothers, siblings -- children who were risking their lives to cross the border so they could find peace, so they could be free from danger, so they could reunite with their loved ones," Rosero said.
The Rev. Richard Smith with St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church, a congregation he said is sheltering three refugees from Central America, also spoke at today's news conference.
"These are not criminals and rapists as our president would like us to believe, but people fleeing for their lives," Smith said. "They need a handout and welcome, not our rejection."
He argued that historical atrocities like the Holocaust can't be carried out by individuals acting alone. They require widespread cooperation, sometimes by members of the business community, according to Smith.
"You don't overcome an evil by cooperating with it," Smith said.
"This is why we insist that companies like this one resist the economic and political pressures to cooperate with the evil taking place before our eyes," Smith said. "You overcome an evil by resisting it."
Maribel Castillo, a representative T.Y. Lin, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the proposed legislation. —Dave Brooksher