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Marginalized communities react to Biden’s agenda for his first 100 days

Biden's agenda prioritizes several issues that aim to help communities of color, both directly and indirectly.
Carolyn Copeland November 17th, 2020
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President-elect Joe Biden has some ambitious plans for his first 100 days in office, and unlike the agendas of other presidents, it prioritizes several issues that aim to help communities of color, both directly and indirectly. Biden has pledged to make several bold, sweeping actions once he steps into the Oval Office, with some people questioning whether he’ll be able to do it all in the allotted time frame.

Among Biden’s biggest priorities: taking aggressive action to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, implementing police reform, reversing corporate tax cuts that were passed by the Trump administration, building on the Affordable Care Act, rejoining the Paris climate accord and the World Health Organization, undoing some of the Trump administration’s harmful and destructive immigration policies, and strengthening the Voting Rights Act.

A divided Congress will almost certainly make it challenging for Biden to make good on all of his promises, but as he prepares his transition team, organizers, activists, and people from marginalized groups have been reacting to what Biden’s priorities in his first 100 days mean to them, what they’re happy about, and where they think his agenda falls short.

Taxes and the economy

The tax cuts by the Trump administration have been proven to disproportionately favor white people, but Biden’s plans to roll back the Trump administration’s tax cuts could help mitigate some of the damage. Rolling back some of the GOP-endorsed tax cuts also falls under Biden’s bigger proposed tax plan, which would raise taxes on people making more than $400,000 per year. Specifically, his plan on the economy includes additional small business opportunities, homeownership opportunities for BIPOC communities, addressing inequities in agriculture, and more equity in management, training, and higher educational opportunities.

“The Biden administration’s 100-day plan is promising,” said Dr. Michael McAfee, president and CEO of PolicyLink, an organization that aims to eliminate poverty and create an equitable economy. “President-elect Biden's plan is responsive to specific failures of our government institutions, but solving those failures will never make up for the fact that America's institutions were not built to protect and serve people of color. Until we eradicate anti-Black racism from our political, economic, and legal systems, these decaying institutions will still inflict harm on communities of color.”

McAfee said that data compiled by PolicyLink and the USC Equity Research Institute showed that public policies centering racial equity have a high return on investment and have the potential to help the more than 100 million Americans currently living with chronic financial insecurity. 

“These individuals and their families must be centered in the first 100 days and beyond,” McAfee said. “We look forward to partnering with the Biden-Harris administration to build a just and fair society, in which all can participate, prosper, and reach [our] full potential.” 

Biden has said working to eliminate the racial wealth gap is also a top priority, and other Democrats have had some suggestions for what he can do on day one to get the process started. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has said eliminating $10,000 in student loan debt for borrowers is a possibility, but Biden has not yet directly come out and agreed to do so in his first 100 days. Still, Democrats have been pushing for it.

“Biden-Harris can cancel billions of dollars in student loan debt, giving tens of millions of Americans an immediate financial boost and helping to close the racial wealth gap. This is the single most effective executive action available for a massive economic stimulus,” tweeted Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Immigration

Biden’s immigration plan is arguably his most ambitious, with more than a dozen actions he plans to execute, including reuniting the more than 660 children who were separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, halting deportations for 100 days, increasing the number of refugees allowed in the country, fulling restoring the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and ending the Trump administration’s ban on immigrants from Muslim-majority countries.

While many immigrant rights advocates support many of Biden’s 100-day immigration goals, beyond undoing some of the damage caused by the Trump administration, they don’t see enough bold plans being put forth to address the longstanding issues within the immigration system—many of which were exacerbated by the Obama-Biden administration.

“So please correct me if I am wrong, but the Biden immigration priorities for the first 100 days will just be a rollback of what Trump did? Nothing bold, just back to status quo?” tweeted Julia Ricardo Valera, founder of Latino Rebels. “Everyone in the immigrant rights community has expressed serious concern that[Former Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Cecilia Muñoz] will play a big part on Biden's immigration team. They have all told me to a person that this just goes back to Obama policies that were still problematic to many.”

Biden’s record on immigration has been sharply criticized by immigrant rights groups. During his time as vice president, more than 3 million people were deported. Biden has said the Obama administration “made a mistake” by not passing comprehensive immigration reform.

Immigrant rights advocates say Biden will face an uphill battle when it comes to immigration, especially considering the damage caused after four years of a Trump administration that made banning and restricting immigration from Black and brown countries a top priority.

LGBTQ+ rights

In his first 100 days in office, Biden has also promised to pass some legislation aimed at eliminating discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, such at the Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination against a person based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The legislation was introduced in 2019 by Democrats, but it has been stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate. The Trump administration opposed the Equality Act, claiming it would “undermine parental and conscience rights.” While many LGBTQ+ rights activists and groups support the decision to prioritize the Equality Act, there are some questions about the likelihood of it passing, given the sharply partisan Senate. But with the Georgia runoff Senate race scheduled for January, there’s still hope.

“President-elect Biden and the vice president-elect have spent their entire careers forging bipartisan coalitions to get bills through the Congress,” said Reggie Greer, the Biden team’s LGBTQ engagement director, in an interview with NBC. “They have relationships that will assist in advancing protections for LGBTQ+ people broadly.”

Biden’s transition team also includes a much more diverse team than the current administration. Shawn Skelly, the co-founder of Out in National Security and the first openly transgender veteran appointed to a presidential administration, has been selected to be part of the Department of Defense advisory team.

Race relations and criminal justice

In June, following a string of violent police encounters with unarmed Black people, Biden said he planned to create a national police oversight commission within his first 100 days in office that would have a goal of reforming police departments across the country.

Organizers who have been in favor of defunding police departments are pleased with Biden for taking some steps to address the problems, but also feel it stops short of acknowledging where many of the issues lie. Biden has said several times that he does not support defunding the police.

“When politicians and leaders like Biden put forth community and legitimacy policing as solutions to police violence aimed at ‘restoring trust between police and communities,’ it fails to realize the history and structural realities of policing,” said Philip McHarris, a senior research and policy associate for the Community Resource Hub for Safety and Accountability. “There has never been a time in history when the police were not violent towards Black, poor, and marginalized communities.”

Biden is still working to build back some trust with communities who were harmed by the passage of the 1994 federal crime bill, which he sponsored. The bill touched nearly every aspect of the criminal justice system. Biden has since called this bill a “mistake.”

Though Biden doesn’t aim to address the root causes of police violence in his first 100 days, other organizers have acknowledged the importance of having a president like Biden who will at the very least be open to discussions about how to improve community policing.

"I don't view Biden as a savior, but I do view him as an organizing target, that allows for us to negotiate the terms of what it means to be here and to build, to co-create this country with each other,” said Jessica Byrd, the founder of the Movement for Black Lives' Electoral Justice Project, in an interview with Newsweek. Byrd also said she plans to hold Biden accountable to his 100-day agenda and ensure he follows through with his promises. After four years under the Trump administration, communities of color have been traumatized by being constant targets for his racist agenda. The president-elect has laid out detailed plans for dozens of other issues, including those centering Indigenous communities, the AAPI community, Indian Americans, Jewish people, and Muslim communities, but those didn’t make it into his 100-day agenda. Biden’s plan offers some relief to communities that have been ignored or harmed in recent years, but many are still eager to see what issues the president-elect will prioritize once he settles into his new office.


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