With the end of Donald Trump’s only term as president inching closer and closer, the lame-duck POTUS hasn’t exactly been shy about exercising his power while he still has it — and before he has to get out of the White House for good. From approving death sentences to tightening food stamp eligibility, Trump is wasted no time trying to enact several significant last-minute regulations.
Trump's rush to make big moves hasn’t gone unnoticed, and has many wondering if these last-ditch efforts will weigh down the incoming Biden administration. It's no surprise that Trump is committed to causing heaps of trouble in his last days — because gambling with people’s lives has always been a game to him — but what is surprising is just how much trouble a lame-duck like Trump could actually cause. Here are some of the biggest ways Trump could still have an impact during the last days of his presidency.
Expanding how death row inmates can be killed
The Trump administration has already approved alternative ways for death row inmates to be killed other than lethal injection. States are now allowed to include methods like poisonous gas and firing squads to carry out death sentences, officially allowing the change with the phrase “any other manner prescribed by the law of the state in which the sentence was imposed” in the Federal Register. Why do this at all? With recent outcries over the inhumanity of lethal injection (and, of course, the death penalty, period), Trump probably just wants to make it easier for states to kill more people, more quickly.
Putting caps on student visa lengths
This rule, proposed by ICE, would “modify the period of authorized stay for certain categories of nonimmigrants traveling to the United States” and instead give a blanket “maximum period of authorized stay, and options for extensions,” according to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. ICE stated that their need for this rule was to “reduce overstay rates for nonimmigrant students,” but it just sounds like another way to make America an inhospitable place for people from other countries. Cool.
Reducing the income of immigrant farm workers
This already-finalized rule will freeze the monetary scale farm employers use to decide how much they’ll pay immigrant workers who are in the U.S on H-2A work visas, and U.S.-born farm workers for two years. Because, you know, farm workers — especially immigrants — already make so much money, of course they can spare some.
Workers are more likely to be classified as "independent contractors" and not "employees"
This proposed rule by the Department of Labor would “determine whether a worker is an employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act,” according to the Department’s website. Factors including how much control the worker would have over their work and an “economic reality” test, that would determine how much the worker is actually dependent on their employer (and the benefits that come with being an employee) would be considered. In short, it's just another way to recuse business owners from paying for benefits, like health insurance, for their workers.
Revising food stamp eligibility
This proposed rule would change household eligibility for the national Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) based off participation in the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program. If someone partakes in the latter’s cash program or additional assistance from them, they will not qualify for SNAP. Apparently, Trump doesn't mind thinking about the millions of Americans who depend on this program to feed themselves and their children.
Allowing transgender people to be essentially be barred from homeless shelters
This proposed rule would require transgender people to be assigned to homeless shelters funded by the Housing and Urban Development based on their biological sex and not their gender identity. This would effectively prohibit transgender people from being able to take advantage of homeless shelters.
Restricting asylum eligibility
This proposed rule would allow the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security to “propose changes to the regulations regarding applications for asylum,” according to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. The departments would be able to make those changes based on what they deem as “credible fear determinations or reasonable fear determinations.” Sounds like racial, religious, and ethnic profiling to us!
The EPA will not be allowed to use certain scientific studies when making new policies
This rule, currently in consideration, would limit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from using some scientific studies while crafting new policies. According to ProPublica, this rule would "limit the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to consider scientific research where the raw data isn't completely public. It could exclude many epidemiology and public health studies where the raw data contains private medical information." What this effectively does is make it more difficult to use scientific research in a way that benefits all our lives. Great!