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Divisive policies and actions from Trump-era that Biden could decide to alter


President Joe Biden assumed the office intent on healing a deeply fractured country and reversing former President Donald Trump’s divisive legacy.

“A cry for survival comes from the planet itself. A cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear, and now arise political extremism, White supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat,” Biden said during his inaugural speech on Wednesday.

For the past four years, the Trump administration embraced policies and initiatives targeting immigrants and undermining the nation’s progress on civil rights. All while the President’s own words incited violence and bigotry.

Contrary to his predecessor’s anti-immigration rhetoric, Biden unveiled a comprehensive plan right away that included a multi-year pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants currently in the United States. On his first day in office, nine of the 17 actions he took directly reverse Trump’s policies.

Here’s a look at some of the Trump-era policies and actions involving immigration, equality and bigotry that Biden is planning to tackle or that he could decide to alter:

The assault on immigration

Immigrant family separations: The Trump administration announced on April 6, 2017, a “zero tolerance” policy of prosecuting all immigrants who illegally cross the border. It led to the separation of thousands of families, including those with infants, some only a few months old, because children can’t be kept in federal jail with their parents. It sparked protests in the streets and eventually prompted a rare reversal from the President himself.

The policy ended in 2018 but officials are still scrambling to fix the problems it caused. Last year, lawyers said they haven’t been able to reach the parents of 545 children from separated families — and that hundreds of those parents were likely deported without their children.

One of Biden’s executive actions undoes Trump’s expansion of immigration enforcement within the US.

“Remain in Mexico” policy and the border wall: Migrants have faced insurmountable challenges to claiming asylum and have been required to stay in Mexico in deplorable conditions, waiting for immigration hearings in the US under the Trump administration’s so-called “remain in Mexico” policy.

The policy, officially known as Migrant Protection Protocols, was implemented in 2019 amid an increase in migrant arrivals at the southern border, with officials arguing that it would deter migrants from making the journey north.

Nearly 55,000 migrants, many of whom are from Central America, have been sent back to Mexico, where they have been left to wait for weeks, if not months, in regions deemed dangerous by the US State Department.

In another effort to seal the US off from immigrants and refugees, the Trump administration spent billions on building a border wall.

The Trump administration took a series of steps to erect additional barriers along the southern border, including declaring a national emergency to access additional funds, filing dozens of lawsuits to acquire private land, and waiving environmental and contracting laws to expedite construction.

On Wednesday, Biden’s order halted the construction of the border wall by terminating the national emergency declaration used to fund it.

Trump sought to cancel DACA: The Obama-era program shielding undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children from deportation was under legal and political siege. The Trump administration tried ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2017 but the US Supreme Court blocked its attempt last summer.

A federal judge ordered authorities to fully restore the program in December, allowing newly eligible immigrants to file new applications.

Trump also spent years limiting the number of refugees coming into the country. For the current fiscal year, his administration set the lowest cap the US has seen in decades. Citing the pandemic, the Trump administration enacted what critics described as unnecessary immigration restrictions, including new rules for international students, and blocked thousands of guest worker visas.

During his first day in office, Biden fortified DACA.

Travel ban on predominantly Muslim countries: In one of his first moves in office, Trump signed the first travel ban, which caused chaos at airports and eventually landed at the Supreme Court. The policy has been derided by critics as an attempt to ban Muslims from the US.

In 2018, the Supreme Court upheld the third version of the travel ban after the previous iterations were challenged in court. The current policy restricts entry from 13 countries to varying degrees, including Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, along with Venezuela and North Korea.

The administration has argued that the travel ban was vital for national security and ensures countries meet US security needs, by requiring a certain level of identity management and information-sharing requirements.

On Wednesday, Biden reversed the Trump administration’s restrictions on passport holders from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Pushback against racial justice advocacy

Trump blasted NFL players protesting: Athletes took a knee, raised a fist or didn’t take to the field while the National Anthem was played before games across the country to draw attention to systematic bias against people of color. Their actions infuriated Trump.

He railed against the players, saying they were outraged about “something that most of them are unable to define” and reiterated his belief that players who don’t stand for the National Anthem should be penalized.

The protests began in 2016 when Colin Kaepernick, then a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, sat and then knelt before several preseason and regular-season games. He said he did so to protest police shootings of African American men and other social injustices faced by Black people in the United States.

Last year, Trump called the “Black Lives Matter” movement a “symbol of hate” and described people demonstrating for racial justice as “thugs.”

Department of Justice all but abandoned broad police investigations: Former Justice Department lawyers told CNN the wide-ranging investigations and consent decrees that had defined the Obama administration’s approach to police misconduct all but disappeared under Trump.

Former US Attorney Jeff Sessions spoke against consent decrees and police investigations, arguing that the cases can lower police morale. Before Sessions left the department in November 2018, he put in place a memo that required consent agreements to be “narrowly tailored” to the injuries caused by misconduct and limited the use of court monitors, among other stipulations.

Trump banned anti-discrimination workplace training: Federal agencies were directed to identify and cancel contracts and agency spending related to training programs that suggest the US “is an inherently racist or evil country” or “that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil.” Trump consistently sided against efforts to reckon with America’s fraught racial past and claimed some of those efforts amount to an erasure of history.

A rule meant to combat housing segregation: The Trump administration ended the Obama-era rule known as Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing in 2020.

The rule was enacted in 2015 as a way to bolster the 1968 Fair Housing Act, which outlawed restrictions on selling or renting homes to people based on race. In 1973, Trump and his father were accused in a federal civil rights case of violating those restrictions. The case was eventually settled after Trump attempted to counter-sue.

Despite the Fair Housing Act being in effect for decades, many neighborhoods remained segregated, with communities of color less likely to have access to good schools, health care and public programs necessary to help citizens rise out of poverty. The Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule was considered essential to further level the playing field for underprivileged populations.

Political rhetoric linked to violence

White supremacist rally in Charlottesville: Trump’s handling of the 2017 deadly White supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was widely criticized and seen as dismissive. In a news conference, Trump blamed the violence on both sides of the conflict. He also took days to publicly acknowledge the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who was killed while protesting the White supremacists and neo-Nazis.

The President’s top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, considered quitting and the corporate titans who composed his business advisory council stepped down but the controversy appeared to have had few long-term consequences within the White House.

Mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and the Tree of Life synagogue: Many Latinos and immigrants said they were living in fear after a gunman opened fire at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, on August 3, 2019, killing 23 people. The shooting was allegedly carried out by a suspect who published a four-page document filled with White supremacist language and racist hatred aimed at immigrants and Latinos, including some phrases Trump had uttered in the past.

In a national address days after the shooting, Trump called on the nation to condemn racism and White supremacy. But he stopped short of acknowledging his own divisive and racist rhetoric.

A year before, a gunman killed 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, an incident considered the deadliest attack ever on Jews in the US. Federal prosecutors filed hate crime charges against the suspect, who previously claimed Jews were helping transport members of migrant caravans from Central America. The Trump administration described the group of migrants as a national security threat.

While Trump denounced the Pittsburgh shooting, the massacre widened a national debate over the President’s divisive rhetoric. Some people, including a local rabbi, said the President’s hateful speech had led to the massacre.

The US Capitol insurrection: Convinced that the presidential election had been stolen, Trump-supporting rioters touted themselves as “patriots” and repeatedly chanted “USA, USA” while vandalizing the building at the heart of America’s democracy on January 6, the day Congress was meeting to finalize Biden’s Electoral College victory.

Hours before the insurrection, Trump had addressed a crowd of supporters gathered on the Ellipse near the White House, fanning false allegations of voter fraud and telling them to “fight like hell.”

“We’re going to walk down to the Capitol. And we’re gonna cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women. And we’re probably not going to be cheering, so much for some of them, because you’ll never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength and you have to be strong,” he said.

Trump was impeached for a second time because of his role inciting the insurrection.

Biden called for racial justice and unity in America on Wednesday, acknowledging that the nation has been deeply divided by political forces and systemic racism.

In his inaugural speech, Biden denounced White supremacy and domestic terrorism and said the nation needs to be repaired and healed.

“To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future America requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: Unity. Unity,” Biden said, speaking from the same platform that had been stormed by armed insurrectionists two weeks ago.

He acknowledged that speaking of unity can sound foolish these days, but the struggles the nation faces are not new.

“I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real. But I also know our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we all are created equal and the harsh ugly reality of racism, nativism, fear, demonization have long torn us apart,” he said, before adding that the better angels of the nation have always prevailed.

Article Topic Follows: Politics

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