It’s been a very busy week. Let’s take a moment to examine all the orders Trump has enacted so far.
Rather than fit these square pegs into the round hole of my usual format, I’ll just list the executive orders and their implications. You’ve probably heard of most of these already, or even read my posts about them throughout the week.
- Affordable Care Act “relief.” This allows states to delay or avoid implementing aspects of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). States asking for waivers and the Department of Health and Human Services can apparently interpret this almost any way they want, effectively gutting any state-level provisions of the ACA in states whose governments don’t want to comply. This is a serious threat to the health and welfare of the citizens of such states.
- Freeze on all pending regulations. Any regulations that are not yet approved or in force are frozen until they can be reviewed by the Trump administration. There are some national security-related regulations to which this does not apply. Since it only affects pending regulations, there are unlikely to be any immediate effects from this one.
- “Mexico City” abortion policy reinstated. Any non-governmental organization which receives money from the US government is forbidden from providing or promoting abortion. Past Republican Presidents have done this, as well. This affects NGOs operating in countries outside the US, rather than affecting the US specifically.
- Withdrawing from Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. While the TPP was never popular among the American public, the US withdrawal from it will likely be a detriment to the US economy and our influence in the Asia-Pacific region. It was designed in part to counterbalance Chinese influence in the region–now, China is poised to become the largest partner in the agreement. Somewhat ironic in the face of Trump’s anti-China rhetoric.
- Federal hiring freeze. No new hires are to be made at federal agencies until further notice, with the exception of the military and high-level public safety and national security positions. This is likely a first step toward future, larger cutbacks.
- Restarting the Dakota Access Pipeline. The environmental review ordered by the Obama administration is now to be completed as swiftly as possible, presumably to approve construction and move the project forward. The pipeline has been highly controversial as its route takes it close to the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and any spills would contaminate their land as well as the Missouri River.
- Restarting the Keystone XL Pipeline. TransCanada, the company behind Keystone XL, has been invited to resubmit their application to construct the US side of the pipeline, after the Obama administration previously canceled the project. TransCanada is to have any such application approved within 60 days of submission. This pipeline has been criticized over its questionable necessity and, like DAPL, its potential environmental dangers.
- Faster reviews for infrastructure projects. Trump promised to rebuild American infrastructure, and this order would appear to be designed to help fulfill that promise. Procedures for environmental studies and reviews are to be streamlined and expedited, which in practice suggests many regulations will be bent or ignored to allow projects to move forward. This may allow shoddy work, overpriced contracts, and environmental damage.
- Oil pipelines are to be built with American-made steel. This requirement demands that pipelines like those mentioned above shall be made with American steel to the greatest extent possible. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, but does nothing to mitigate the dangers of such pipelines and constructing them without effective, proper reviews.
- Domestic manufacturing regulation review. The Secretary of Commerce has been ordered to engage discussions with domestic manufacturing firms to determine which regulations are negatively impacting American manufacturing. This sounds to me more like an attempt at naked regulatory capture, in which those being regulated get to tell regulators what to do–it rather defeats the purpose of regulation.
- Border security measures. These include beginning construction of the wall along the US-Mexico border, construction of additional detention facilities, hiring of 5000 more border patrol agents, ending the “catch and release” policy (meaning anyone arrested and found to be an undocumented immigrant will not be released, period), identify all sources of US funding to Mexico (no doubt in order to stop it and redirect it toward paying for the wall), and empowering state and local officials to enforce immigration policy. Taken as a whole, these present a massive crackdown on immigrants, and in addition to undocumented immigrants likely being abused and having their rights violated, legal American residents and citizens are likely to be caught up these policies, as well.
- More intensive pursuit of undocumented immigrants. As if the border security measures above weren’t enough, certain undocumented immigrants will be prioritized for swift removal, 10,000 additional immigration enforcement officers will be hired, federal funding to “sanctuary” cities will be cut, the Secure Communities program will be brought back to help state and local authorities act as immigration agents, countries that refuse to repatriate undocumented immigrants we attempt to deport to them will be sanctioned, and a new office will be created to aid the victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. Again, this is a massive crackdown on an issue that, while important, will not be solved by draconian and inhumane measures. Undocumented immigrants commit crimes at a much lower rate than the general population, as well, so a brand-new office to focus on the victims of such crimes seems wrongheaded and wasteful. It looks less like an attempt to help victims and more like a way to demonize undocumented immigrants (and anyone who might be mistaken for one) further. Not to mention, the sanctions against countries that refuse to cooperate will probably lead to international incidents and further deterioration of US influence and respect around the world.
- Reevaluation of the visa and refugee programs. Because Trump is still not done persecuting anyone who seems “foreign,” the number of refugees being allowed into the US in 2017 will be cut from 110,000 to 50,000; the refugee admission program will be suspended for a 120 day review; individuals from Iraq, Iran, Sudan, and possibly Libya, Yemen, and Somalia, will not be permitted to enter the US for the next 90 days; all Syrian refugees are barred indefinitely; countries which are deemed unable to sufficiently vet the entry of their citizens into the US will have such citizens banned from US entry; once refugee admissions resume, admission based on religious persecution will be prioritized (this is designed to favor Christians over Muslims for refugee status); a biometric scanning system for US entry and exit is to be implemented; gives states and local jurisdictions more authority to determine how refugees are settled; suspends visa interview waivers, so anyone attempting to renew a visa will have to interview in person; expands the Consular Fellows Program, who adjudicate visas for foreign nationals. Taken as a whole, these are clearly designed to dramatically reduce foreign entry to the US, especially from predominantly Muslim countries. This will likely have large economic impacts on both tourism and jobs which hire immigrants.
- Military budget review. Secretary of Defense James Mattis is to develop an assessment of the current status of the US military and its budget, and in turn to produce a new budget that will improve readiness conditions. Our nuclear and missile defense capabilities are also to be reviewed. Once again, allowing the head of an agency to determine their own budget defeats the purpose of government accountability. The US military does not need to be expanded, but it’s clear that Trump has designs on military intervention.
That’s all for now–it’s been quite a week.
As for what you can do about them: if you feel particularly strongly about any of these issues, contact your local, state, or Congressional representatives as needed. Help organizations that seek to defend the very people these measures are likely to harm. Take to the streets–protest. Make your voice heard. Inform others of what’s going on.
During the election, those who expressed concerns over Trump’s promises were admonished that he wasn’t serious, that he couldn’t really do all of the things he promised to do. Well, now he’s doing them. He is trying to make good on his many hateful and destructive promises. He can’t be allowed to succeed.
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