December 4, 2021

Although President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris election day victory continues to be contested by the current administration, many pundits, outlets and the incoming administration are proceeding business as usual. 

Part of that includes formulation and execution of the Biden-Harris policy agenda. To date the President-Elect has provided signals on what to expect from the incoming administration. It’s clear that the COVID-19 pandemic is priority number one.  President-Elect Biden has already gathered a COVID-19 Advisory Board in which science will override politics.

But what about the rest of the legislative agenda? Further what does it mean for the Latinx community? The below, while not the entire list, is  a closer look at what we know so far.

Immigration

Biden’s Chief of Staff Ron Klain indicated that Biden will be delivering Immigration reform legislation on the first day of his administration. The big question – what will that legislation propose?  All signals clearly point to policy that does not seek to demonize immigrants. But the devil lies in the details.

What specifically does the Biden-Harris administration have in mind? According to Politico, proposed reforms include a 100-day moratorium on deportations, restoring protections for young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children and eliminating Trump’s restrictions on asylum-seekers. The administration is also seeking to reinstate DACA and introduce legislation that includes a pathway to citizenship.

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Photo by Nitish Meena on Unsplash

Although these are clearly more immigration friendly positions. Many immigration activists note that immigration was glaringly omitted from the four main pillars on Biden’s agenda, which include the coronavirus pandemic, economic recovery, racial equity and climate change.  Intentional? Only time will tell.

What This Means for Latinx – A fair share of the community consists of immigrants and DACA recipients. If you are neither, odds are you know someone who is.  The new proposals could quite literally allow you or someone you know to remain in the United States legally.

 

Climate Change

Climate change has been identified as a priority by the Biden administration.   According to Biden, “there is no time to waste”. 

The President Elect has already gathered his team. If confirmed by the Senate, it will include the first black man to run the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the first Native American cabinet member. Another noteworthy change is the creation of an environmental envoy to the National Security Council. A not-so-subtle signal that the incoming administration is intent on treating environmental issues as a national security issue. 

A great first step, however, in terms of policy, other than a pledge to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, specifics remain scant. During the campaign, candidate Biden adeptly sidestepped issues such as fracking and the Green New Deal. Will President Biden do the same?

What This Means for Latinx Why does this matter to Latinx? Because according to Pew Research Latinos are among the youngest racial or ethnic groups in the U.S. Which means they and the generations that follow will have to live through and will be greatly impacted by the adverse effects of climate change.

 

Criminal Justice Reform

If there is one thing, we will remember about the year 2020 it is national protests against racial injustice and police brutality. Biden campaigned on and is expected to enact reform to address systemic racism and discrimination that persists in the criminal justice system.

As a Senator, Joe Biden was instrumental in writing the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. Which many see as a root cause in accelerating mass incarceration. Ironically enough, as President he will be tasked with reducing mass incarceration. To this effect, his campaign has proposed a $20 billion grant to incentivize states to reduce prison population numbers, as well as provide funding for mental health and substance abuse services.

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As for police reform. Biden has publicly acknowledged that he disagrees with calls to defund the police. Rather, he proposes a significant investment of approximately $300 million for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program. COPS reforms entail investments in training, technology and medical and mental health professionals to assist police when they are called for certain emergencies. Biden is also seeking to empower the US Department of Justice to hold police departments accountable for abuses.

What this Means for Latinx – Research shows that Black, Latino and Native American people are more likely to experience fatal and nonfatal police force. Should Biden’s legislative proposals be enacted it could literally mean the difference between life or death.

The Joe Biden proposed agenda clearly is Latinx friendly. Yet, one wildcard remains. Will the Republicans retain control of the Senate? If so, there is little doubt Biden faces challenges to enact these reforms. The results of Georgia’s runoff elections will fill this piece of the puzzle this week.

 

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