Biden’s Executive Orders and the Latinx Youth Vote

Mar 1, 2021 | BM4F Spotlights, Uncategorized, Young, Gifted & Green Blog Series | 0 comments

Rio Diaz | Former Biden-Harris Campaign Organizer

Latinx voters and organizers helped to propel Biden and the Democrats to reclaim control of the White House and the Senate while maintaining their majority in the House of Representatives. Since taking office, the Biden-Harris Administration has signed 38 executive orders. Most of the orders are aimed at getting the coronavirus pandemic under control as soon as possible, but Biden has used his office to reverse Trump’s immigration policies, as well as creating positions in the executive branch that would ensure an equitable pandemic response by the federal government.

We know that Black and Brown communities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and the economic crisis that the lockdowns have caused, so we must take a closer look at how Biden’s executive orders will impact the Latinx community. 

Coronavirus, Immigration, Equity, and the Environment

The Biden-Harris Administration’s coronavirus related executive orders were designed to accomplish three major tasks: expand the country’s testing capacity, accelerate the manufacturing of vaccines, and ensure an equitable distribution of the vital Covid-19 vaccines. Biden emphasizes that getting vaccine shots into the arms of as many Americans as possible is the key to addressing and solving the climate, economic, and racial justice crises that we are facing today.

There has been a lot of significant progress in flattening the curve of Covid-19 infections. 47 states have reported continued decreases in the number of new cases, and 1.6 million Americans are getting vaccinated a day which is higher than Biden’s goal. To reach herd immunity, the Biden-Harris Administration must continue to speed up the roll out of the vaccine and encourage the public to wear masks, follow social distancing guidelines, and sign up for a vaccination as soon as it becomes available to them. If the Biden Administration wants to support Black and Brown communities, he must make an intentional effort to prioritize vaccine distribution in marginalized communities that have beared the heaviest burden of the pandemic.

After the coronavirus, immigration issues have been the number two focus of Biden’s executive orders, but most of these orders have been reversals of Trump’s policies. So far, the Biden Administration has strengthened the DACA program which provides protections for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. Trump actively undermined this program, so it is a good sign to see the Biden Administration begin to repair the damage that Trump inflicted. 

Biden has also worked to expand the United States Refugee Admissions program after Trump made it more difficult for people to gain refugee status in the United States. Biden also stopped the construction of Trump’s wall along the US-Mexico border by cutting its funding. 

The new Biden Administration has taken swift action to end Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy that allowed for immigration agents to separate families from each other at the Southern border. A task force has been established to facilitate the reunification of families impacted by Trump’s horrific policy.

In light of the surge of migrants traveling to the United States from Central America, Biden has expanded support for Central American asylum seekers. Additionally, the Biden Administration is committed to addressing the root causes of migration by helping Central American countries tackle the economic and political issues they face. 

In terms of environmental policies, there is a lot to be hopeful for under the Biden Administration. On his first day in office, Biden canceled the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline which threatened ecosystems and public health. Biden signed an executive order to rejoin the Paris climate accord, an international effort to prevent catastrophic levels of global warming. On a less glamorous, but equally important note, one of Biden’s executive orders reestablished the Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, signalling that the new Administration will ensure that there is scientific integrity across the federal government.

In terms of environmental policies, there is a lot to be hopeful for under the Biden Administration

My favorite element of Biden’s climate executive orders is without a doubt, the creation of the Civilian Climate Corps. This initiative will “mobilize the next generation of conservation and resilience workers and maximize the creation of accessible training opportunities and good jobs”. In my view, this is an outstanding way to simultaneously address the climate, economic, and racial justice issues that are disproportionately impacting communities of color. Black and Brown neighborhoods are exposed to higher levels of pollution than white communities, and people of color only make up about 20% of the workforce in environmental organizations and agencies. If the Biden Administration can build an effective and inclusive Civilian Climate Corps, it will serve as a great way to provide a pathway for young people of color who lifted his campaign to victory to good paying jobs that will help tackle climate change in their own communities. 

In almost every corner of the country, environmental racism can be found. I currently live in Chicago where our Mayor is complicit in upholding environmental racism by allowing a company that is known for endangering public health to relocate from a white neighborhood to an area of the city that is predominately Latinx, prompting local activists to begin a hunger strike to protest the relocation process. Biden must live up to his campaign promises of bringing environmental justice to the forefront of all of his climate policies. As a candidate, he pledged to hold polluters accountable, so now that he’s in office, Biden must stay true to his world by standing up against environmental racism, like what’s happening in Chicago.

In almost every corner of the country, environmental racism can be found.

The Latinx Vote in the 2020 Election

The Latinx vote in 2020 was unprecedented, and a close examination of how the Latinx population voted helps to understand the critical role these voters played in Biden’s victory. It was truly a historic turnout, but after the election, numerous headlines from the mainstream outlets pushed a misguided narrative that Democrats struggled with turning out Latinx voters. These stories focused mainly on the substantial gains that Trump made with Latinx voters in Texas and in Florida, but to suggest that Biden struggled with the Latinx vote fails to capture the full picture of the story. On the whole, Biden won the Latinx vote by a 66% to 32% margin, garnering 10 million more Latinx votes than Trump. Furthermore, 8 million more Latinx voters turned out in 2020 than in 2016 which is by far the largest increase in voter turnout than any other demographic group. The 2020 Latinx vote increased by 63% since 2016, compared to the Black vote which increased by 20%, Asians with 16% and Whites with a mere 6% increase.

With the Latinx population in the United States being incredibly young with an average age of 30 years old, Biden owes it to the young voters and organizers–who helped secure his victory–to live up to his campaign goals because we simply do not have time for broken promises. During the Democratic primaries, Latinx voters overwhelmingly supported Bernie Sanders, so if Biden wants to remain in good standing with the Latinx population, he must enact bold legislation that will directly benefit our communities. I’m hopeful that Biden’s Administration can be pressured into enacting more progressive policies because of the fact that his campaign coordinated an effort with the Sanders campaign and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to create a bolder climate platform. GenZ and Millennial voters are significantly more progressive than our older counterparts, and the Biden-Harris administration should govern knowing that they risk losing our support if they fail to address the challenges of our time.

It was truly a historic turnout, but after the election, numerous headlines from the mainstream outlets pushed a misguided narrative that Democrats struggled with turning out Latinx voters.

In my view, Biden needs to be the FDR of our time. He must utilize the full capacity of the federal government to launch green infrastructure projects to lift our country out of our economic crisis and to prepare us for the effects of climate change. That being said, voters must continue to turnout and organize their own communities to support progressive and Democrats because if the Republicans take back the House or Senate in 2022, it is unlikely that Biden will be able to enact legislation that would bring big, systemic change that the United States so desperately needs. 

Communities of color fought tooth and nail to get Biden to the White House, and the need to beat the Republican Party in the upcoming elections could not be more dire as 43 Republican Senators just acquitted Trump for his attempt to destroy American democracy on January 6th. Republicans are actively undermining voting rights for people of color, so Biden must protect and expand voter protections across the board to reject the very real threats of white supremacist movements that realize that their only way to gain power is through anti-democratic means because they cannot win elections. 

Off to a good start, but the work must continue

Biden’s executive orders are in no way perfect, but most of his actions since taking office will significantly benefit the American people. We must continue to hold Biden and our local elected officials accountable to ensure that they deliver tangible results to their constituents. The issues of climate change and racial justice cannot only be addressed at the federal level, however. Local and state officials play a significant role on these issues, so Latinx GenZ and Millennials must step to lead their communities if their local officials are not up to the task. Climate change has been proven to be a winning issue, so if your city council person or state representative is not acting boldly enough in the face of the climate crisis, I encourage people to consider starting campaigns to oust them. I worked for the National Democratic Training Committee, which provides free, online campaign training and educational material for Democrats and progressives looking to make a difference in their communities. If we can successfully vote out slow acting legislators at the state and local levels, the Biden Administration will take notice and when the 2024 election comes around, the climate movement will be strong enough to push Biden’s platforms to become even bolder. 

I am hopeful that we can secure the change we need, but it will take all of us to rise to the occasion.

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