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Taylor Telford

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News Story from Interview

Herrera: Trump is walking back threats on sanctuary city funding

SAN FRANCISCO – After filing a January lawsuit against President Donald Trump to fight for San Francisco’s federal funding, City Attorney Dennis Herrera said Tuesday the financial loss would be minimal in the “unlikely” event of Trump winning.

The executive order Trump signed in January said the government would withhold federal funding from “sanctuary jurisdictions” that don’t cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. At the time, Herrera said the administration was threatening the $1.2 billion San Francisco receives in federal funding annually, much of which goes to health care and safety net programs. Now, he thinks the potential loss would be just a fraction of that.

“Since then, the administration has attempted to narrow what they say is impacted,” Herrera said. “The actual impact on San Francisco would be less than $10 million.”

After the City and County of San Francisco and Santa Clara County filed lawsuits saying the executive order was unconstitutional, U.S. District Judge William Orrick issued a preliminary injunction that halted Trump’s efforts. Now, Herrera feels confident the sanctuary jurisdictions will win.

In the wake of the lawsuit, Attorney General Jeff Sessions office issued a memo May 22, which gave the government’s first official definition of a sanctuary jurisdiction: one that refuses to comply with the federal law that demands local and state governments share information with the federal government about individuals’ legal status.

The memo also specified the only funding that would be revoked upon violation of the law would be Department of Justice and Homeland Security grants.

In the executive order, the Trump said sanctuary jurisdictions like San Francisco “have caused immeasurable harm to the American people.”

The order emphasized violent crimes committed by immigrants and how they threaten U.S. citizens. Sanctuary cities, the order said, allow violent criminals to walk freely. Both Trump and Sessions have pointed to the death of Kate Steinle, a woman killed in 2015. An undocumented immigrant who had been deported several times has been accused of shooting her.

Trump’s rhetoric surrounding undocumented immigrants is unfair and lacks appreciation for the role they play in the U.S., said Dania Lopez Beltran, an attorney at the East Bay Community Law Center who specializes in immigration practice.

“When you have this kind of fear looming over immigrant communities that are important parts of society, it hurts everyone,” Beltran said.

The threat of deportation can be paralyzing, Beltran said. Sometimes, undocumented parents keep their children home from school, even if the kids are citizens. Families stay inside on weekends, locked in their homes, for fear of coming into contact with immigration officials on the street. In some cases, they refuse medical treatment they desperately need, in case hospitals might reveal their lack of legal status.

The fear is still present in sanctuary cities, Beltran said, but it’s not as crippling.

“Sanctuary cities keep the community functioning in a safe way for everyone,” Beltran said.

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Herrera fights for progress, with the mayor’s office on the horizon

In his first decade as San Francisco’s city attorney, Dennis Herrera won the battle for marriage equality. He helped close down a power plant that spewed filthy smoke into the skies. He shuttered a scam that defrauded poor school districts and cracked down on corruption in City Hall.

Herrera was Teflon, a city hero. So in 2011, he ran for mayor, touting his laundry list of legal successes and hoping to cash them in for another big win.

Instead, he found himself in the dust of his first real failure.

After the race, Herrera licked his wounds and went back to work. Since then, he’s taken on gun manufacturers, Monster energy drinks, tech giants and even the president. But as he forges ahead, there are rumblings he’ll try for mayor in 2019. And why shouldn’t he?

True, he was once an outsider, a New Yorker who abandoned his own coast. But in his time in office, he said he’s been shaped into a true San Franciscan. He spends his days fighting doggedly for the liberal values that define the city.

Hasn’t he proven himself by now?


Herrera, 54, grew up in Glen Cove, New York, the son of a Colombian psychiatrist and an Italian nurse. He was a charming, wily kid, who liked to “spend his minutes in rough and tumble play,” according to his first grade report card, which hangs in his office at City Hall.

He put himself through college at Villanova University, hopping between jobs. He scrubbed dishes, scalding his hands on the grill line. He cleared plates and briefly scribbled orders, but made for an impatient waiter. He had no patience for finicky, waffling customers.

After law school at George Washington University, he left New York and moved to San Francisco. Already, he had plans to shape the city.

“When he came out here, he really did want to get involved politically,” his wife, Anne Herrera, said.

He bought a sprawling, old Victorian house in Dogpatch in 1993, across the street from a Hell’s Angels clubhouse. The neighborhood was gritty and industrial then, but he fell in love with it.

Anne moved in with him months after they met at a wedding at the City Club of San Francisco in 1997. The house had seen its share of earthquakes, but together, they shored its aching frame and replenished the chipping paint.

They haven’t budged since.


Herrera floats above the daily grind as city attorney. He’s confident in the team he’s assembled, said Deputy Attorney Matt Lee, 31, which frees him to focus on the next big thing.

“He’s surrendered himself to this constellation of really effective lawyers,” Lee said. “He’s consistently the smartest guy in the room, but he never acts like it.”

When he took the city attorney position, he told Anne he’d stay four years. But the cases piled up and the wins kept coming. It took a chance at the mayor’s seat for him to consider stepping away.

On June 4, 2011, Herrera kicked off his campaign in front of an eager crowd at The Fillmore. He thanked his wife and son, who stood beside him onstage, grinning sheepishly. Then he rattled off causes he’d taken on as city attorney: gang violence, fraud and corruption in city government, pollution, gay marriage and a woman’s right to choose.

“Leading an award-winning law office for the last nine and a half years has given me an opportunity, an opportunity unique in this race, frankly, to prove my mettle,” Herrera said.

During the campaign, Herrera woke early to shake hands with people passing through BART stations before he headed into City Hall. He poured red wine and chatted with customers at Pause Wine Bar in his neighborhood. He marched in the San Francisco Pride parade, reminding voters of the 10 years he spent, both at the state and federal level, fighting for marriage equality.

But when November 8 came, Herrera found himself in third place with 22.6 percent of the vote.

The loss stung. He felt blindsided, Anne said, by the winner and incumbent mayor, Ed Lee, who’d jumped into the race after swearing he wouldn’t run again.

Herrera had run for mayor because he loved San Francisco. He wanted to help move the city forward.

But he’d defined his office by progress for a decade. He could keep doing it.


Recently, Herrera sank his teeth into tech giants, like Uber and Airbnb, that skirt the rules to bring a flood of cash to themselves. He’s going head-to-head with President Donald Trump, who wants to gut federal funding for sanctuary cities like San Francisco.

When he wants to shed the weight of his work, he’ll disappear on walks along the Embarcadero, tracing the outside of his neighborhood. It’s small, but it’s blossomed since he first settled there. When he and Anne go on dates, they don’t cross town to try the newest restaurant. They stay in Dogpatch.

“We’re looking for a wonderful pasta and a great salad or a good steak and a baked potato,” Anne said. “We want what’s comfortable and hearty.”

At home, he reads extensively, but only non-fiction. He pores over two or three newspapers a day, sometimes with his son, Declan, who’s picked up his father’s reading habit. There’s always sports humming on the television. The only time Herrera betrays his city is when the Mets come to town, but he’s sworn to his wife that he’s a Giants fan now, first and foremost.

Herrera considers himself a grounded man. He likes consistency. He prizes loyalty.

But he’s also a maverick, always looking forward. For now, he’ll keep fighting for the city and its people, as he’s done since he was elected in 2001.

2019 is far away. He doesn’t want to make any promises. But the glint in his eye shows it – the itch is there.

“I’m not closing the door on it,” he said.

Maybe, when the time comes, he’ll try again.

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Farmers, immigrant workers fear the fallout of Trump’s immigration polices

STOCKTON – There was always more work to be done, but it was past noon and the sun was pounding, so Eddie Zuckerman headed in from the fields for a rest.

Zuckerman, 66, scrubbed the black dirt from his hands, but it still clung beneath his fingernails, even after he wiped his hands on his dusty jeans. Then he sauntered to his office, calling out to his workers in choppy, enthusiastic Spanish. Every word he knew came from them.

“Como estás hoy? Comiste ya?” How are you? Did you eat already?

“Sí, bastante!” Yeah, enough.

He let out a sigh as he sank into his chair. Outside his window, Hispanic workers unpacked sack lunches at picnic tables, beneath a sign that said “Area de descanso.” Rest area.

His office walls were lined with maps of Zuckerman Family Farms, which spans 6,000 acres in Stockton, California. For four generations, his family has raised corn, tomatoes, asparagus and potatoes and sold them throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Like most California farmers, Zuckerman said he depends on the labor of hundreds of Hispanic immigrants.

But over the past few years, fewer and fewer immigrants have come, creating a labor shortage that’s driven up wages and threatened to put family farms out of business. And now, with President Donald Trump ramping up immigration enforcement, Zuckerman fears for the future.

“If the Trump administration were to really make good on all its promises,” he said, “it would be catastrophic.”


Since he took office, Trump laid out plans for a $21.6 billion border wall, according to an internal report from the Department of Homeland Security. He issued an executive order that made all immigrants with any kind of criminal charges or convictions, petty or violent, a priority for deportation. He made plans to add 10,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers nationwide.

The thought of all this makes Zuckerman shake his head. The reality Zuckerman has seen in his 40 years on the farm is that the immigrants who want to come to the United States won’t be stopped by walls or more ICE officers.

“If people want to come here, they’re going to find a way,” Zuckerman said.

The accusation at the heart of many anti-immigrant arguments – that they are stealing American jobs and leeching off the country’s social services – is baseless, Zuckerman said. They’re not stealing jobs. They’re doing vital work others are unwilling to do.

“I don’t have poor, white people out here begging me for work,” Zuckerman said. “It’s almost entirely Hispanics.”


Jesus Rios’ life has been tethered to Zuckerman’s farm since he was a boy, living thousands of miles away in central Mexico. His father came to Stockton as a seasonal laborer in the 1970’s and harvested potatoes and asparagus. After a more than a decade spent going back and forth, he risked illegal passage to the United States with his wife and four children.

After a perilous trip, with cold nights spent huddling in the mountains and blistering days spent trekking through the desert, the family made it to Stockton, where they’ve lived ever since.

Rios, 41, started working alongside his father at the farm as a teenager. He’s pulled weeds, driven trucks and hauled crates. Now he’s a manager, in charge of dozens of workers that tend to every plant and irrigation pipe.

While Zuckerman stresses over the economic collapse Trump’s policies could bring to California farmers, Rios and his workers fear for the lives they’ve built here. Rios became a citizen in 2012, but it doesn’t make him feel safe from Trump. Many of his workers, undocumented or otherwise, feel the same.

“They feel insecure, just from being Hispanic,” Rios said. “It doesn’t matter if they have a green card or whatever, they could be kicked out either way.”

Before the election, Rios’ men started to panic. They’d be out in the fields, toiling beneath the sun and worrying about whether they’d still be there in the months to come. Now, some of them feel suffocated, with their guards always up.

“Sometimes they’re too scared to even go out and buy their lunches,” Rios said. “They’re afraid they’re going to get stopped by someone and get sent away.”


Zuckerman huffed as his shovel bit into the dirt. There was a quiet crackle, like the splitting of a seam, as he yanked a potato plant up to inspect it. The roots dangled around his wrists as he prodded the potatoes, small and round like stones.

“By harvest, they’ll be much, much bigger,” he promised. He nestled the plant back in the earth and slung his shovel over his shoulder as he walked back to his truck.
The farm used to grow fickler crops, like asparagus, which requires gentle, human hands for harvest. But a vast majority of Zuckerman’s laborers are Mexican immigrants. Since 2012, more Mexicans are leaving
the United States than are coming, according to a study from the Pew Research Center. It’s caused a labor shortage in California, which has farms grappling for workers, especially for harvest.

Some of Zuckerman’s friends, cherry farmers, could barely rustle up enough help to get their fruit off the trees. Zuckerman saw no choice but to turn to crops like potatoes, grapes and sod, which can be harvested by machines.

Now he cruised past the turf and sod fields, earthen patchworks of gleaming grass and dark dirt. In the distance, tractors blazed through rows of corn. Zuckerman left his windows down, reaching out to wave at everyone he saw. The truck kicked up dirt as it passed a cluster of grey trailers, where some of the seasonal workers stay during the harvest.

Even with mechanized farming techniques, Zuckerman said he still relies on Hispanic laborers. They drive trucks and tractors and monitor the irrigation systems. They pack the crops into wooden crates to be shipped throughout the Bay. If they were jailed or deported, as the President has promised, Zuckerman would lose everything. So, he insists, would every other farmer in California.

He pulled the truck back into the lot and hopped out, work boots crunching in the gravel. A few workers stood, chatting in Spanish. Zuckerman clapped them on the back and extended his dirt-dusted hand for them to shake. He greeted each one in their language, using the one Spanish word that rolled easily off his tongue.

“Hola, hola, hola.”

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