With Trump's Exit, Angelenos Breathe A Sigh Of Relief — And Prepare To Hold Biden Accountable

Outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump board Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on January 20, 2021. (Alex EdelmanAFP via Getty Images)

As Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were placing their hands on bibles, waving to supporters and taking in a Katy Perry-plus-fireworks duet, we spoke with Angelenos about turning the page from the Trump era and their hopes for the new administration.

"It came to a point to where, every time my phone would vibrate — it's almost like conditioning: Oh Lord, what has Trump done now?" said Corey Matthews, Chief Operating Officer of Community Coalition in South L.A.

Reflecting on the end of the Trump presidency, Matthews said Black and Brown communities in L.A. experienced collective trauma over the past four years — from the effects of racist rhetoric, punitive immigration policies, and the fear brought on by a scattershot COVID-19 strategy and the accompanying economic uncertainty.

"I think I was able to finally breathe today," Matthews said." And I hadn't realized how much I had been holding my breath."

On social media, many LAist readers echoed this sense of relief.

But the sunny optimism beaming through television and computer screens from Washington, D.C. was tempered by realistic expectations from community organizers in Los Angeles.

"[Trump's] presidency only deepened America's social ills — what we were already experiencing," said Umar Hakim Dey, board chair of L.A. Voice.

Dey cautioned that the Biden Administration won't be able to fulfill its promises overnight. But he said he was hopeful about seeing policy changes at the federal level focused on police reform, economic stability and homelessness solutions.

"As a Black man in this country, I've been waiting on a lot of promises that've been made since about 1865," Dey said. "But we as organizers can help keep the Biden administration accountable by presenting our vision of empowering and investing in the community at the local level."

BROKEN PROMISES ON IMMIGRATION REFORM

L.A.'s immigrant communities have been waiting for much longer than four years for vital immigration reforms.

"Trump was more visible in his mistreatment of immigrants — building walls, taking children away from their parents. But Obama did many of the same things, on a larger scale than Trump," said Magybet Mendez, a DACA recipient and founder of the L.A.-based non-profit, Immigo. "Many people think that just because Trump is out of office, this will automatically end, but it doesn't work that way."

LAist reader Irving Grey Angeles sent us an email and shared similar concerns, saying the inauguration was "bittersweet" because his family has been let down by broken immigration reform promises since the beginning of the Obama Administration. He wrote, in part:

I'm afraid [Biden's] only likable trait is that "he is not Trump," which is such a low bar.

Just last week, I was buying from street vendors on Whittier Blvd in East L.A., when the city's health department showed up and confiscated many street vendors' food and work supplies. I know these vendors are mostly all undocumented with few resources at their disposal. It was heartbreaking seeing that happen, but it's something I've unfortunately grown accustomed to. It's even more disturbing because L.A. is supposedly a liberal city that is friendly to immigrants.

When will their voices be heard? This is the reality for so many undocumented people in Los Angeles and in this country at large.

Democrats or Republicans in the White House, I don't see significant differences.

When challenged on the campaign trail, Biden said deporting hundreds of thousands of people without criminal records during the Obama Administration was "a big mistake." His proposed immigration reform package would create a pathway to citizenship for some of the 11 million people in the country without legal status, and offer Dreamers and Temporary Protected Status recipients the opportunity to apply for green cards right away — but the legislation is far from a sure bet in a closely divided congress.

"I do expect some form of relief. And it's long overdue," Mendez said. She added she's optimistic about the ascendency of the first person of color to the office of the Vice President, who is also the child of immigrants.

"I'm hopeful that she will shed more light on the fact that immigrant women are particularly vulnerable in our society," Mendez said.

Many organizers who spoke to LAist shared a commitment to holding the new administration to its campaign promises.

"It's not just up to Biden," Dey said. "We're all presidents and vice presidents of our own lives and our homes and our community."