Black and Latino Activists Say There's Still Work to Do Ahead of Biden's 100-Day Marker

It's one of those milestones that becomes a big deal because the media and political observers pay attention to it.

The 100th day of a presidency traditionally serves as a marker to gauge how a new administration has been going about trying to achieve its goals, its early successes and failures, and how it has addressed unexpected challenges that demanded immediate attention.

But more than 75 days into Biden's term, Latino and Black activists who spoke to Newsweek said they believed it wouldn't be helpful to their groups or the communities for whom they advocate to wait until Day 101 to press the administration on issues they consider to be urgent agenda items.

Immigration and the influx of children at the U.S. southern border is one of the unexpected challenges that has vexed the White House. A record 18,890 children arrived in March, a 100% increase over February, administration officials said Wednesday on a conference call with reporters.

But as the border draws Biden's focus and resources, activists say more needs to be done elsewhere on immigration, especially as a $2 trillion infrastructure and jobs plan has emerged as the next area the administration is willing to expend political capital on in Congress.

"Biden must use the infrastructure package to provide a path to citizenship for folks," said Cristina Jimenez, the co-founder of United We Dream. "This is the opportunity to deliver on the promise Democrats have made for years on citizenship."

Biden has thus far sought to reverse many of his predecessors immigration policies through executive orders, and introduced broad legislation to overhaul the stalled immigration system. But it's unclear whether an appetite exists in Congress to add immigration planks to an enormous infrastructure package whose political future is already tenuous.

Republicans who didn't support the popular COVID relief package won't come to the table on immigration, Jimenez argued, ramping up the pressure on the president, who advocates argue could be doing more to lessen deportations and detention.

"Only political will is stopping him," Jimenez said.

In addition to immigration, there are a myriad of issues progressives of color want to see the White House move on, including voting rights, student debt, diversity in the administration, and deployment of resources for vaccinations.

Domingo Garcia, the president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) said he is "a little disappointed" with Biden's current pace of Latino appointments to the administration. He said that while Obama had appointed 31 Latinos in his first six months, Biden has only appointed 11 during his first three months.

While the administration's approach to racial equity regarding the coronavirus impact was reflected in the COVID relief package, Garcia said that his LULAC chapters on the ground in Latino communities tell him money for vaccinations to community groups is still not enough.

"We're not seeing it," he said. "We've been giving them the benefit of the doubt because it's his first 100 days and it takes time to organize, but outreach to the Latino community, which has been hardest hit medically and economically, is just not there."

Black progressives told Newsweek there is a belief among Black voters that Republicans have a problem with "small d" democracy, as evidenced by the January 6 attack on the Capitol and restrictive voting laws pursued in states like Georgia. They said this means Biden must be clear-eyed about the fights ahead on issues like voting rights, and has to equal the energy he's had on COVID and now infrastructure.

Steve Phillips, a Democratic donor and author, who is working on a book titled "How We Win The Civil War," said descendants of the losing side "never stopped fighting since the Civil War, starting with killing Lincoln," which is what he wants the Biden White House to grasp as the 100 days marker comes and goes.

"How much do they appreciate the nature of the fight that they're in, and that we're in an existential battle in this country with opponents who have no loyalty to the Constitution?" he asked.

He said that question has implications for public policy fights, from voting rights to D.C. statehood to filibuster reform.

"Voting rights is the single most important thing from a strategic standpoint that determines whether or not we have 'small d' democracy in 2022 or 2024," he said, pointing to how losing control of Congress could stop Biden's agenda in its tracks.

"All of these things are hard fights," said Adrianne Shropshire, the executive director of BlackPAC, "because they go to the heart of what is our democracy and who is going to be included in it. These are centuries old questions and Black people have a very clear understanding of how we've had to struggle for the acknowledgement of our citizenship."

Due to the weighty nature of what they see as the high-stakes fights facing the administration, Black leaders and advocates don't expect Biden to fix everything within his first 100 days. The infrastructure package is "potentially transformative," Shropshire said, and she is happy to not have to worry about what the president says everyday.

Her son, for example, noted they don't watch as much news since Trump retreated to Mar-a-Lago. But she said progress must be fought for, and political polarization isn't gone just because Trump is.

"Where we were on January 6, the hate and vitriol is just under the surface," she said. "So I expect the White House to continue using their office to bring down the temperature in the country, and that's done by being competent, from the slate of judges, to diversity in the administration, and clearly denouncing anti-Asian hate."

Last month, in a poll of Black voters by BlackPAC, respondents identified the border crisis as a top-five issue. They want to see it handled humanely, and they support a path to citizenship, Shropshire said, providing a lens from voters of color to view the administration's coming political battles.

"It's about how they talk about the humanity of all of us," she said.

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A view of voting rights signs as people gather during the Count Every Vote Rally In Philadelphia at Independence Hall on November 07, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for MoveOn) Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for MoveOn/Getty Images