The Equality Issues at Stake With a Trump or Biden Election Win

President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden have traded sharp attacks over a long list of policies, from international relations to the coronavirus pandemic.

The divide may be widest, though, on the issue of civil rights. Biden and Trump don’t just have competing legislative ideas on how to tackle discrimination and inequality, they offer starkly different explanations for their causes.

As a result, the two candidates propose polar opposite agendas on some of the most contentious issues. Here are four policy areas at stake in the Nov. 3 election:

Immigration

One week after being sworn in, Trump signed an executive order banning almost all citizens from seven mostly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days and barring entry to all Syrian civil war refugees. The original order was blocked in federal court. But in June 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a revised version of Trump’s ban that included some non-Muslim majority nations, rejecting arguments that he unfairly targeted Muslims.

The president continued to implement more aggressive policies to curb undocumented immigration than some of his predecessors. In 2018, Trump adopted a “zero tolerance” approach to illegal border crossings -- a policy that included separating thousands of children from their families. While the practice ended amid a public outcry, more than 500 children at the U.S.-Mexico border have yet to be reunited with their families, according to a recent report from the American Civil Liberties Union.

Biden has pledged to create a task force that would work to reunite separated migrant children with their parents.

The Equality Issues at Stake With a Trump or Biden Election Win

Other controversial proposals the Trump administration has tried to implement include putting a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. Census and ending a program that shielded thousands of young undocumented immigrants, or “Dreamers,” from deportation. In both cases, the Supreme Court rejected the new rules.

White House Senior Adviser Stephen Miller told NBC News this week that the Trump administration would continue its immigration strategy in a second term by limiting asylum grants, curtailing visas for high-skilled workers and expanding the travel ban.


Affirmative Action and Diversity

The Trump administration has sought to curb some efforts to create more racially diverse and equitable workplaces and student bodies.

Earlier this month, U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Yale University, alleging that it discriminates against White and Asian-American candidates in undergraduate admissions by favoring Black and Hispanic applicants. That came two years after the Justice Department supported a separate lawsuit challenging Harvard’s use of race in admissions. A federal judge sided with Harvard last year, and the plaintiffs have appealed the ruling.

The Equality Issues at Stake With a Trump or Biden Election Win

The Trump administration has also taken aim at racial sensitivity training. Last month, Trump signed an executive order that bars federal agencies, government contractors and the military from conducting diversity training that includes “divisive concepts” such as the idea that the U.S. is inherently sexist or racist, or that individuals may be “inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and other civil rights groups have filed a lawsuit to block Trump’s order, saying it infringes on freedom of speech.

LGBTQ Rights

The Trump administration has made several attempts to curtail the rights of the LGBTQ community, often inviting lengthy legal challenges. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in 2017 rescinded Obama administration guidance clarifying schools’ responsibilities to ensure students had access to bathroom facilities and locker rooms that match their gender identities. In June, the Justice Department defended an Idaho rule that barred transgender athletes from competition based on their gender identity.

The White House was dealt a blow in June when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects gay and transgender workers from job discrimination, rejecting the administration’s argument that Congress didn’t write the law to include sexual orientation.

The ruling extended protections to more than half of the country’s 8.1 million LGBT workers who live in states that don’t shield them from discrimination, though the decision exempted small businesses.

Biden has praised the Supreme Court’s ruling, saying that “everyone should be able to live openly, proudly, as their true selves without fear.” The Democratic candidate has vowed to pass the Equality Act, which outlaws discrimination against LGBTQ people in housing, employment and public accommodation.

Abortion Access

Earlier this year, Trump became the first sitting president to address the anti-abortion March for Life rally in person, where he touted his successful nominations of Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. The justices, along with the recently confirmed Judge Amy Coney Barrett, are seen by many as willing to erode Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion.

The Equality Issues at Stake With a Trump or Biden Election Win

The Supreme Court aside, another Trump term could see further limitations on abortion access for women. In January, the Trump administration threatened to curtail federal funds to California if it didn’t drop a state requirement that private health-care insurers cover abortion.

Two years ago, the Trump administration tried to curb abortions by changing the Title X Family Planning Program, which gives grants to health-care organizations that serve low-income people. Under Trump’s rule, grant recipients were barred from referring patients for abortions. The order has been challenged in the courts, which have thus far issued disparate rulings.

Biden has promised to rescind Trump’s rule and issue guidance that states cannot refuse Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.

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