During the first week of his presidency, Joe Biden has sought to undo some of the most harmful policies pushed by the former administration of Donald Trump. Many of these reversals, such as immigration policies that advocates have fought against for years, have been celebrated by nonprofit leaders as victories for civil society.
Of the 17 executive orders that Biden signed on Inauguration Day, nine (including the one specifying that undocumented residents will be counted in the census) focus on immigrant rights issues.
Other first-day executive orders cover a range of matters, including rejoining the Paris climate accords, canceling the Keystone XL pipeline project, rejoining the World Health Organization, reversing the ban on federal racial equity trainings, extending student loan forbearance until September 30th, and extending the tenant eviction moratorium two months to March 31st. As NPQ has noted, Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan proposes to further extend that moratorium to September 30th.
All told, Biden signed 30 executive orders in the first three days—and will sign many more this coming week. This is part of his administration’s effort to set a new tone in Washington in its first 10 days. Broadly, these executive orders focus on four areas: COVID-19, the economic downturn, racial justice (including immigrant rights), and the climate emergency. Among the anticipated executive orders is one removing a ban on transgender people serving in the military.
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The immigrant-related actions are far-reaching. Among other things, they protect the status of hundreds of thousands of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) residents, also known as Dreamers, who came to the US as children. And the strength of these actions are boosted by Biden’s proposed immigrant reform legislation, which, as Seung Min Kim writes in the Washington Post, would create an “eight-year pathway to citizenship for immigrants without legal status and an expansion of refugee admissions.”
For its part, the nonprofit immigrant rights group United We Dream called this a moment to celebrate—a tribute, the organization points out, to the “undeniable power of immigrant youth.” In a press release issued Inauguration Day, the group’s executive director, Greisa Martinez Rosas, observes, “President Biden’s proposed immigration framework was no accident. It was shaped by our unwavering commitment to uphold and fight for the dignity of all undocumented people.” The campaign has been challenging. A year ago, United We Dream activists braved freezing temperatures during the Iowa Democratic debate to get a commitment from Biden on a moratorium on deportations.
The New York Times does well to remind us, however, that executive orders are known both for their ability to easily implement changes as well as how easily they can be rendered void by a new administration. Lasting change can only be achieved through legislation by Congress. As Martinez Rojas observes, “Today is only the beginning.”—Sofia Jarrin
|21-Jan||“Executive Order on Improving and Expanding Access to Care and Treatments for COVID-19” (Establishes a preclinical program to boost development of therapeutics in response to pandemic threats.)|
|21-Jan||“Memorandum to Extend Federal Support to Governors’ Use of the National Guard to Respond to COVID-19 and to Increase Reimbursement and Other Assistance Provided to States”|
|21-Jan||“Executive Order on Establishing the COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board and Ensuring a Sustainable Public Health Workforce for COVID-19 and Other Biological Threats”|
|21-Jan||“Executive Order on a Sustainable Public Health Supply Chain” (To take inventory and pricing of critical materials, treatments, and supplies, and to facilitate access to the Strategic National Stockpile for federally recognized Tribal governments.)|
|21-Jan||“Executive Order on Supporting the Reopening and Continuing Operation of Schools and Early Childhood Education Providers”|
|21-Jan||“Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety”|
|21-Jan||“Executive Order on Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel”|
|21-Jan||“Executive Order on Ensuring an Equitable Pandemic Response and Recovery” (Creates a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force to address health and social inequities for communities of color, sexual and gender minority groups, those living with disabilities, and those living at the margins of our economy.)|
|20-Jan||“Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing” (Enacts the president’s 100-day “masking challenge.”)|
|20-Jan||“Executive Order on Organizing and Mobilizing the United States Government to Provide a Unified and Effective Response to Combat COVID-19 and to Provide United States Leadership on Global Health and Security.” (US rejoins World Health Organization.)|
|22-Jan||“Executive Order on Economic Relief Related to the COVID-19 Pandemic”|
|20-Jan||“January 22 Executive Orders – Economic Relief.” (The Federal Housing Finance Agency extends moratorium on evictions and foreclosures until March 31.)|
|20-Jan||“Pausing Student Loan Payments” (Extends the existing pause on student loan payments and interest for Americans with federal student loans until at least September 30.)|
|22-Jan||“Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce.” (Restores collective bargaining power and pushes for $15 minimum wage.)|
|20-Jan||“Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis” (Rejoins Paris Climate Agreement, enacts temporary moratorium on oil and gas exploration in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and revokes the permit of the Keystone XL Pipeline.)|
|20-Jan||“Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government” (Rescinds the Trump administration’s 1776 Commission and directs agencies to review their actions to ensure racial equity.)|
|20-Jan||“Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation”|
|20-Jan||“Executive Order on Ensuring a Lawful and Accurate Enumeration and Apportionment Pursuant to the Decennial Census” (To allow for counting all people in the US, including undocumented immigrants, per stipulated under the 14th Amendment.)|
|20-Jan||“Executive Order on Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel” (Reinstates pledge requirement from all executive agencies’ appointees against lobbying and the corporate “revolving door.”)|
|20-Jan||“Preserving and Fortifying Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)”|
|20-Jan||“Proclamation on Ending Discriminatory Bans on Entry to The United States”|
|20-Jan||“Executive Order on the Revision of Civil Immigration Enforcement Policies and Priorities”|
|20-Jan||“Proclamation on the Termination of Emergency with Respect to The Southern Border Of The United States And Redirection Of Funds Diverted To Border Wall Construction”|
|20-Jan||“Reinstating Deferred Enforced Departure for Liberians” (Extends deferrals of deportation and work authorizations for Liberians with a safe haven in the United States until June 30, 2022.)|
|20-Jan||A memorandum directing Homeland Security to set a 100-day moratorium on certain deportations, to be implemented as soon as January 22.|
|20-Jan||The US Citizenship Act of 2021 is sent to Congress to provide an eight-year path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Dreamers, TPS holders, and immigrant farmworkers who meet specific requirements are eligible for green cards immediately under the legislation. The Act codifies $4 billion to address the underlying causes of migration in the region, including by increasing assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, conditioned on their ability to reduce the endemic corruption, violence, and poverty that causes people to flee their home countries.|