One hundred days have passed since the Biden-Harris administration assumed office. From the start, the administration faced the monumental task of undoing the vast harms of the Trump presidency while addressing an ongoing pandemic. Concurrently, a nationwide reckoning with systemic racism, particularly in the policing and criminal legal systems, serves as a reminder that many of this country’s systems were broken long before Trump. Now is our chance, as we pick up the pieces, to reform and rebuild our institutions based on the painful truths that have been further highlighted over the past four years.
Trump policies such as family separation shocked the nation and the world, yet beyond reuniting the families we separated, further action must be taken to build an immigration system that is truly humane, inclusive, and makes all communities feel safe. The disastrous government response to the COVID-19 pandemic shined a spotlight on major disparities in access to key needs — such as housing and broadband — that have harmed communities of color for generations. And as we begin to hold police accountable for killing Black and Brown people, we must also continue the broader fight to end mass incarceration and reform the racist criminal legal system. These systems are in urgent need of change — and while Biden has made progress in his first 100 days, it will take more to build institutions that truly herald justice, fairness, and equality for all.
The Trump administration was the worst in modern history for civil rights and liberties across the board, but from day one, attacking immigrants and eviscerating our already dysfunctional immigration system was its cornerstone. One of Trump’s first executive actions in office was signing the Muslim ban, and not long after, his administration abandoned Dreamers and enacted a cruel policy of separating families at the border. We commend the Biden administration for its swift response in rescinding the Muslim ban and renewing DACA, among other important actions impacting immigrants’ rights. But the work isn’t yet done, and on far too many issues, the Biden administration has continued or only temporarily paused Trump policies.
Family separation remains a lasting stain on this country’s history. Years later, the parents of roughly 400 children have not yet been located. Thousands more continue to suffer trauma and continued separation. Even families that were reunited have been irreparably traumatized. The Biden administration has an obligation to find and reunite every single one of these families in the U.S. and work with Congress to provide a pathway to citizenship. These families also deserve resources, care, and a commitment that family separation will never happen again.
The asylum system is also in need of reform. Current policies are causing families to split in Mexico and send their kids unaccompanied to the U.S. in hopes of a better life. The Biden administration should help build a humane asylum and immigration system that does not break up families and force people to risk their lives out of desperation, and help dismantle the deportation and detention machine that has disproportionately harmed Black and Brown immigrants.
Fair Housing and Homelessness
The eviction crisis that accompanied the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted long-standing inequities in housing access, particularly when it comes to race and gender. On average, Black renters are nearly twice as likely to be evicted as white renters, and Black women are evicted at an even higher rate. And because landlords frequently discriminate against prospective tenants with a prior eviction record, it can be difficult or nearly impossible to secure housing in the future. Housing instability hinders the physical and emotional wellbeing of families, particularly children.
In response to housing instability caused by the pandemic, the Biden administration has taken action by extending the federal moratorium on evictions, relieving the burden of paying for housing for people who may continue to face unemployment, medical concerns, and other financial obstacles related to the public health crisis. The administration has also begun to address discriminatory practices and policies that prevent too many families from accessing their right to fair housing. Looking ahead, we need more and more committed action related to combating exclusionary zoning and segregation.
In today’s world, broadband is not a luxury, it’s a basic necessity like water, gas, and electricity. Still, millions of people in America are living without access to broadband, and they are disproportionately people of color, rural, and low-income. Because broadband is linked to opportunities in employment, education, and other important means of connection, broadband access is not only a platform for speech, but also a key driver of systemic equality.
President Biden has signaled commitment on this issue by including $100 billion in funding for broadband access in the American Jobs Plan, which would help deploy reliable, high-speed internet to every household in the U.S. Congress and the Federal Communications Commission have also taken important steps by implementing and extending the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) as part of the latest stimulus package. The EBB will provide families with a $50 ($75 on Tribal lands) subsidy for internet access for the duration of the pandemic. But internet access will remain just as necessary after the pandemic, and the government must act accordingly by ensuring that every person in America has access to a free, open, and affordable internet.
Criminal Legal System Reform
The American criminal legal system has been a key driver of racial inequality since the country’s founding. The over-policing of Black and Brown communities and unjust sentencing practices have made America the largest incarcerator in the world. Many people sitting in jails have not even been charged, because our bail system criminalizes poverty and puts a price tag on freedom for those awaiting trial. Many more are serving outrageously long sentences due to war on drugs policies that disproportionately impact people of color.
By directing the Justice Department not to renew contracts with federal, privately-operated prisons, the Biden administration has just scratched the surface. To truly fight mass incarceration and meaningfully improve our criminal legal system, the administration must end the war on drugs, better leverage clemency powers, end the federal death penalty, and reduce the role of police in communities, including by embracing a strict use of force standard for all police departments so we reduce the tragically high levels of police violence.
The injustices of the criminal legal system are examples of the systemic racism that permeates all of our institutions. To build a more equitable country for all, the Biden administration must make racial justice a priority across the board. In voting rights, that means expanding access to the ballot for all voting age Americans, including those who are incarcerated. In education, that means, among other measures, forgiving $50K in student loan debt per eligible borrower — a debt which disproportionately harms people of color. The economy can be made more equitable by making the enhanced child tax credit permanent. It will take a comprehensive approach to seriously address America’s legacy of racism and systemic discrimination.
Beyond the 100 Days
One hundred days into the Biden-Harris administration, many needed reforms remain more urgent than ever. Each day that passes is another day too long for people sitting in jail without charge, whose lives have been swallowed by the mass incarceration and policing systems. Each day that passes is another day too long for families living without a roof over their heads, for people who cannot take part in modern society because they can’t afford broadband, and for Black, Indigenous, and other people of color contending with systemic racism instead of systemic equality.