Maribel Hastings and David Torres
With the debacle of the pandemic, the economic crisis, and the drama of the electoral defeat that Donald Trump calls “stolen”—and shamefully continues to profit from—we have not focused on the reality that on January 20th, at noon, Democrat Joe Biden will assume not only the reigns of this nation, but the disaster that Trump is leaving at every level.
It seems that these obstacles that the President has left in the way throughout recent weeks have been, for all intents and purposes, to complicate not only the transition but the very operation of the next government that will dedicate itself largely to cleaning up the White House. To this end the Biden team has already begun, with the nomination of a profoundly diverse Cabinet, one that reflects today’s United States.
That is why it is worth calling for pragmatism and patience, because Biden and the Vice President-elect Kamala Harris do not have a magic wand to resolve, in one fell swoop, all of the problems they have before them. And if the Senate remains in Republican control, at the legislative level many of their stated promises will have an uphill battle.
In the legislative realm, it’s worth remembering that although Trump is no longer there, he has sufficiently poisoned the well.
For example, now a month and a few days after the elections, only 27 of the 249 Republican legislators in Congress recognize Biden as President-elect, according to The Washington Post, but most still bow their heads to the “Supreme Leader” Trump and his ridiculous accusations that the election was “stolen.” This is a false rhetorical ruse that the whole world realizes, even Trump’s partisans, but they have to obey him for political convenience–although it is counterproductive for the nation, with dramas that rival the best theatrical productions.
And the President’s control over the Republican Party is so strong, the thirst for power among these legislators so intense, that it doesn’t matter to them that Trump continues to rip off his supporters with the false argument about electoral fraud, asking for donations that have already soared over $200 million. That is how big the lie is and how big the dangerous alienation the Trump administration leaves as its legacy, with which we will have to cohabitate uncomfortably at a social level once he abandons the White House.
Meanwhile, coronavirus deaths in the United States are already approaching 300,000; there are mile-long lines of people looking for food for their families across the entire country. But for Trump and the Republicans it’s perfectly normal to continue to exploit the false “fraud” so that the uninformed continue to finance political campaigns or perhaps the legal expenses of the future ex-President. Accustomed to taking advantage of others, it’s evident that Trump has done nothing more than apply his personal philosophy in order to exit the throes of his political unraveling with a personal gain, never one for his own people.
It turns out that we still do not know what effect Trump’s venom will have on the actions of Republicans in Congress, although judging by their disgusting behavior throughout his presidency, it would be a miracle if they changed ways. At any rate, Trump forced the question of who these Republicans really are, which leads us to conclude that their capacity to advance legislative measures proposed by Biden is relatively null.
Therefore, appealing to their political conscience becomes an empty gesture, despite the fact that their reputation will remain in the gutter when this is all over, and history will show them for who they are: traitors of their own values, their own nation.
Essentially, the question is whether some legislative measures will have a chance or if, as occurred with Barack Obama and Trump himself, executive orders will continue to be the main vehicle to advance a legislative agenda.
On the issue of immigration, for example, we remember that Obama protected Dreamers from deportation by executive order, with DACA, which Trump reversed. The issue has been bottled up in the courts. On December 4, a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to reinstate the program immediately and accept new applications. The vital question is if it will be possible to impose a permanent legislative solution on an issue like DACA, or if it will remain an administrative measure.
This is one of the immigration priorities of the next administration, because in the realm of personal and familial sacrifices, immigrants have, in the Dreamers, the only option to see their goals crystallized since the first day they stepped on this soil with the hope of providing their children a more dignified life, a better opportunity to progress.
In addition to DACA are other matters: of course, TPS; changes to asylum law; the border wall; the Muslim ban; separated families; as well as the thorniest topic of all: the legalization of 11 million undocumented immigrants. And to these we can add a potential crisis at the southern border, if the migrant caravans resume or if the precarious situation of the thousands of stranded immigrants who are looking to seek asylum in the United States gets worse.
Indeed, if not for the pandemic that serves as a temporary brake, there’s no doubt that new caravans of migrants would continue to be organized, taking into account the respect that the incoming Biden administration would certainly have for asylum laws. This will also be a trial by fire to resolve the border crisis that has left an even more painful scar on the southern border than the construction of a wall.
All this in the midst of a pandemic that Trump ignored, minimized, and obstructed, and continues to obstruct an effective response from the federal government. And in the middle of an economic crisis that intensifies as the deaths from the virus mount.
It’s true that Biden made promises, especially on immigration, and many of those have to do with nasty administrative measures signed by Trump. These can be corrected, and although the process is not automatic, a strong effort will have to be put forth if we want to see the historical feat of having overcome a xenophobia administration, by such a large margin of 8 million votes, crystallized. To that Biden will also have to respond and respect.
But when it comes to measures that require the approval of Congress, if the Senate remains in Republican hands, the job will not be easy. Biden was in Congress for four decades and was characterized by his capacity to have good relationships with Republican colleagues. But that was before he was President and before the Republican Party embedded Trump’s “T” and put prejudice, cruelty, and falsehoods ahead of the national good.
In other words, we can breathe easier because it is anticipated that Biden will undo many of the most nefarious measures Trump imposed on immigration issues, and others. But it will not be automatic or easy.
And when we get anxious that promises are not realized immediately, we have to have patience without taking our foot off the pedal, and remember that from January 20 on, Trump will not be president.
Maribel Hastings is a Senior Advisor to America’s Voice. David Torres is a Spanish-language Advisor at America’s Voice.
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