Since he took office, Donald Trump has dedicated all of his efforts to destroying the legacy of Barack Obama. In total, more that 25 directives of the former president have been repealed. In addition to the exit of the United States from the Paris climate agreement and the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement, Trump has changed the restrictions on the misuse of gas and petroleum in the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and on regulations that seek to improve the salary disparity on the base of the employee’s race or gender, limit the effects of greenhouse gases that energy plants emit, and reduce the contamination in rivers and waterways, etc. Of all these measures adopted by the current U.S. president, two are of relevance.
First, we have the decision to repeal a measure adopted by Obama to improve the planning and ability of U.S. cities and populations to respond to climate change. The regulation in question is directed at those areas prone to be affected by a rise in sea level or increase in precipitation and is intended to guarantee that all new bridges, roads and pieces of critical infrastructure are constructed in such a way that would leave them with the most protection possible from the harshness of weather.
The repeal of the executive order is of particular relevance in light of the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana in the past few days. The massive amounts of rain, more than 100 trillion liters of water, generated unprecedented flooding, submerging almost the entire city of Houston, the fourth most populated city in the country, under more than a meter of water. With material damage surpassing $200 billion, this could be one of the most expensive natural disasters in the history of the United States. Even though Obama’s regulation was too recent to have made a difference in this case, Hurricane Harvey clearly shows the need to consider the impact of climate change when talking about infrastructure.
Even more serious is the repeal of Obama’s executive order that protected the 800,000 young undocumented immigrants, primarily from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, from being deported to their countries of origin. We’re talking about young men and women that came to the United States when they were only children, some even as newborns, that have lived, studied and worked in this country for years, and suddenly face the imminent threat of deportation. Some would have to abandon the country as soon as March 2018, and the rest would follow shortly thereafter, so that none remain by 2020.
The United States Congress could adopt a law granting legal status to these 800,000 young people, or that addressed the situation of the 11 million immigrants that don’t enjoy legal status, but the probability is not very high. In the last 20 years, under better conditions, at least two projects about immigration have been defeated in one of the two chambers of Congress. Now that the Republicans, traditionally hostile to undocumented immigrants, occupy the Senate and House of Representatives, it seems virtually impossible to find a solution for these 800,000 young people, much less a comprehensive immigration reform.
However, old Republican legislators could have a grim proposal on their hands: allow these young immigrants to remain in the country for an undetermined [amount of] time in exchange for the Democrats acceptance on the construction of a wall on the border between the United States and Mexico, an initiative that has been blocked for many weeks.
The Democrats, in general, seem to feel more empathy for the future of these 800,000 young people who suddenly find themselves in a legal limbo, but their priority has always been immigration reform that guarantees stability for the 11 million undocumented immigrants that currently live in the country. If a law deals with the future of those 11 million instead of a wall, it could – maybe – become something concrete. But what are the possibilities that a debate more than 20 years old could be resolved in the next six months? Meanwhile, the destiny of 800,000 people hangs in the balance.
These are only two concrete examples of the irreparable damage that Trump and his followers are causing in his eagerness to quickly and irresponsibly dismantle the issued executive orders of Barack Obama’s term.