Opinion

Opinion: Extreme Executive Orders — A Reckless Assault on Life-Saving Protections

President targeting immigrant communities

President Donald Trump has used executive orders to target immigrant communities, Brent Wilkes and Trip Van Noppen write. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

BY BRENT WILKES AND TRIP VAN NOPPEN

In January, President Donald Trump took an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution” and assumed the awesome responsibilities of that office. Presidents are charged with the responsibility to protect all Americans, but unfortunately, he has yet to do so.

He has particularly targeted immigrant communities with executive orders that tear families apart. Most recently, Trump has engaged in a new campaign with executive orders that attack our access to clean air and water while denying climate change.

After rolling back a crucial safeguard for our water, the president has ordered his administration to systematically demolish the linchpin of our nation’s plan to bring climate change under control and he is reopening our public lands to coal mining.,

In aiming its wrecking ball at the Clean Power Plan and the coal-lease moratorium, the administration is selling off its responsibility to safeguard our environment and our health to the highest bidders from the oil and coal industries.

People across the United States have dedicated years to spurring action by the EPA, the Department of Interior, and the president on pressing climate and water quality problems. Our communities have urged the government to be a partner in a healthier future for our children, rather than an enabler of polluters who place their greed above the value of the air we breathe and the water we drink. These executive orders are abandoning progress that took years to achieve, disregarding the voices of millions of people who engaged in the development of these safeguards.

The people who voted on Nov. 8 did not vote for unsafe water, dirty air, or climate denial.

The public overwhelmingly supports federal action to address climate change and protect our air and water from toxic pollution: 67 percent of Americans consider climate change to be a serious problem; and 60 percent support the Clean Power Plan that the president’s new executive order will trample.

Out of concern for the environmental implications and accelerating climate change, two in three voters supported a moratorium preventing new coal leases and mining on federal and Native American land. In lifting the moratorium, the president is opening our public lands to new coal mining. What he ignores is that from extraction to burning and disposal, the life cycle of coal puts workers, land, water, wildlife and our climate in harm’s way; leaving some of the nation’s most vulnerable communities to bear the brunt of its waste and contamination.

Clean air and water are fundamental to the health of all communities, and Latinos in particular are ready to see action from their leaders.

Two-thirds of Latino voters say that air pollution and contaminants in drinking water pose serious threats to the health of their families. A supermajority of Latino voters in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia think it’s important for the new administration and Congress take aggressive action to combat climate change (70 percent), and reduce smog and air pollution (75 percent). This reflects the reality Latinos are living every day. The majority of Latinos live in areas where fossil fuel-related pollution makes the air unhealthy to breathe. Due to exposure to toxic emissions, Latino children suffer 153,000 childhood asthma attacks every year, and 40 percent are more likely to die from asthma than non-Latino whites.

The League of United Latin American Citizens, the oldest Latino civil rights organization, and Earthjustice, the nation’s largest nonprofit environmental law firm, are no strangers to tough fights. We were founded by people who sought to improve life in all communities, which means overcoming inequality and injustice and securing healthy air and water. For years, LULAC’s membership has been championing resolutions on environmental justice, clean air, clean water and protections for our farmworkers, children, and families from toxic chemicals. Our organizations are proud to be fighting together in this time of such egregious threats.

Assaults may come our way, but the aspirations that we have for our children and our communities will outlast the whims of irresponsible Congresses and administrations. In our collective fight to protect and defend all that we hold dear, we will use the full power of our laws, and when the administration takes illegal actions, we will see them in court.

Brent Wilkes is the executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC, the largest and oldest Hispanic organization in the United States.  For more information, visit www.lulac.org.Trip Van Noppen is the president of Earthjustice, the nation’s largest nonprofit environmental law organization. For more information, visit www.earthjustice.org.

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