Humphrey School News

Humphrey School Experts Weigh in on Trump Administration's Policies

December 1, 2016
Humphrey School faculty panel discussion

President-elect Donald Trump has called for far-reaching shifts in policies relating to immigration, environmental regulation, foreign policy, and women's rights, among many other issues. Faculty experts from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs discussed the potential impacts of those policy changes at a public forum on November 30.

While there’s a lot of uncertainty about what steps the new president might take, these experts shared their analysis of the most likely outcomes. Here are excerpts from the remarks of each participant.

Immigration: Ryan Allen, associate professor, Urban and Regional Planning Area

"Many of Donald Trump’s proposals to crack down on immigration he can theoretically implement through executive authority or pursue by working with the Republican-controlled Congress. But he will face some limitations along the way.

"He is promising to be more aggressive about deporting unauthorized immigrants. In his first 100 days, Trump has pledged to deport up to three million “criminal illegal immigrants,” among other actions.  But it’s extremely unlikely he can accomplish that, without a huge increase in federal funding for enforcement and significant collaboration with local law enforcement agencies. In addition, most immigrants targeted for deportation are entitled to a hearing, and there’s already a backlog of cases stretching for nearly two years.

"Trump’s choice for Attorney General, Senator Jeff Sessions, who has been consistently antagonistic toward immigration during his time as a senator, signals a doubling-down on harsh campaign promises when it comes to immigration." Read Allen's complete remarks.

Education: Art Rolnick, co-director, Human Capital Research Collaborative 

“I have been contacted by the president-elect’s transition team. We have been asked to present our approach and our results on early childhood education in Minnesota. The Minnesota Model targets early intervention and preschool scholarships for low-income families. So it’s possible that we will have a supporter in Washington in this administration for high-quality early education for our most vulnerable kids.

"It’s clear that investment in human infrastructure is very important. Let’s look at the return on investment for education, as well as physical infrastructure. We can’t afford the racial achievement gap in Minnesota or nationally. More of our kids are born into poverty. That’s a problem, and we have to deal with it. I hope the Republicans can make progress in this area.

"I applaud Donald Trump’s nominee for Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, for seeking better performance for children through her support of charter schools and school vouchers in Michigan. But I’m concerned about the lack of oversight for charter schools there. Her unwillingness to back accountability for those schools is concerning.”

Gender equity and equality: Christina Ewig, professor and director, Center on Women, Gender, and Public Policy

"It is still early to tell what will happen under a Trump administration in terms of gender equity and equality. In most areas, we only have some clues.

"Trump outlined policies during his campaign related to paid leave and child care; he proposed a six month paid family leave, which would be a big improvement over the current law which only allows unpaid leave. His campaign also outlined some relief for childcare expenses, through a series of tax deductions and incentives. But it’s unclear whether he will follow through on either of these proposals.

"In other areas, such as reproductive rights, it seems much more clear what Trump’s intentions are, especially through his choice of Congressman Tom Price to head the Department of Health and Human Services. Price is a longtime advocate for defunding Planned Parenthood, and Congress is also likely to act on restricting access to abortion." Read her complete remarks.

Climate policy and the environment: Anu Ramaswami, professor and director, Center for Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy

"The signs are there at that Trump could reduce the authority of the EPA, and that means responsibility for protection of climate and the environment will shift to state and local governments. We’re already seeing that on the state level in California and other places, where cities are leading the work to become more energy efficient and planning ahead toward climate and overall resilience. 

On infrastructure investment: "Trump has proposed a trillion dollars to invest in the country’s infrastructure. There will be interest in investing in transit and high-speed rail. Thinking through infrastructure and how it connects with employment, with the environment, and with public health is an area where we could move forward more cooperatively.

On global trade and climate change: "Donald Trump based his campaign on the notion that he can 'make deals.' To the extent that some of these trade deals have an environmental component, there may be potential for deals to address climate issues. So much manufacturing is now done in other countries that have fewer controls on air and water pollution, that kind of thing. If the U.S. wants to be a world leader again in manufacturing and research, we cannot disengage from clean energy topics. We will be pushed there by economics. The world is moving toward clean energy, not back to dirty energy."

Terrorism and the Middle East: Ragui Assaad, professor, Global Policy Area

“Donald Trump has focused on the threat from ISIS (the Islamic State), as has the Obama administration, but he has done that with a much more strident rhetoric that can be construed as broadly anti-Islamic.  His National Security Adviser, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, has been quoted as saying that Islam is the threat and not just ISIS. 

"This kind of language that associates the vast majority of Muslims with terrorism plays right into the hands of the extremists who want to portray the United States as being at war with Islam rather than just with terrorism. While they may lose the military battle, they might make inroads in the fight for 'hearts and minds' which will maintain their ability to radicalize and recruit Muslims from around the world." Read his complete remarks.

National security: Eric Schwartz, dean of the Humphrey School

“By many accounts the U.S. is confronting national security challenges as serious as any we’ve seen in the past 50 years. The risks we face are more serious, they are more likely to become reality, and more likely to threaten the well-being of the citizens of the U.S. We confront them at a time when worldwide power and influence is shifting in dramatic fashion. Asia will surpass the U.S. and Europe in terms of global power by 2030.

"What this means is pretty simple. While the U.S. remains the world’s dominant power, the margin for error is diminishing rapidly. What can we expect from a Trump foreign policy? We don’t really know for certain.” Read his complete remarks.

The U.S. backing out of the Iran nuclear agreement: Eric Schwartz and Ragui Assaad  

Eric Schwartz: I’m not sure what Trump is going to do on this issue, even though he's talked about getting out of the agreement. The Iranians have complied with the terms of the agreement so far, and that’s a good thing. The agreement is multilateral—there are a number of countries involved. So the U.S. pulling out would create the potential justification for the Iranians to break out of an agreement that, at this point, is meeting our foreign policy interests. If the Iranians were ignoring the terms, then it would be an easier decision.

Ragui Assaad: Another factor to think about is the balance of power in Iran between the moderates who negotiated this agreement, and the hardliners who would like to back out of it. Trump’s rhetoric is strengthening the hardliners’ position, which could take Iran into a more aggressive stance. The movement toward more moderate leaders is one of the best things that has occurred in Iran in recent times. 

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