January 20, 2020 – a day American people have been expecting since 2016, and the day Donald Trump occupied the highest office in the land, drastically changing the American paradigm both on the national and international scene.
After a long period of darkness, the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris gave a much-needed hope for all the Americans, especially to those who suffered the most under Trump’s cruel policy platform – African-Americans, Muslims, immigrants, LGBTQ+, women, and many others.
However, the main premise of this article is not to talk about four years of Trump’s policies, and the damages they had caused, but rather to encourage conversation about Biden’s actions taken on the day of his presidency. Promises were made, a lot of them, and while some of them were delivered on the first day, we have to see how many of them Biden administration will be able to deliver in the end.
In 17 executive orders, memorandums, and proclamations signed hours after his inauguration, President Biden moved swiftly on Wednesday to dismantle Trump administration policies his aides said have caused the “greatest damage” to the nation. Here’s a look at what the measures aim to accomplish.
The COVID19 Pandemic
President Biden has signed an executive order appointing Jeffrey D. Zients as the official Covid-19 response coordinator who will report to the president, to aggressively gear up the nation’s response to the pandemic. The order also restores the directorate for global health security and biodefense at the National Security Council, a group former President Trump had disbanded. Though it is not a national mask mandate, which would most likely fall to a legal challenge, President Biden is requiring social distancing and the wearing of masks on all federal property and by all federal employees.
Racial Justice and LGBTQ+ Equality
President Biden ended the Trump administration’s 1776 Commission, which released a report on Monday that historians said distorted the role of slavery in the United States, among other histories. He also revoked President Trump’s executive order limiting the ability of federal agencies, contractors, and other institutions to hold diversity and inclusion training.
Biden appointed Susan E. Rice, who is the head of his Domestic Policy Council, as the leader of a strong, interagency effort requiring all federal agencies to make “rooting out systemic racism” central to their work. His order directs the agencies to review and report on equity in their ranks within 200 days, including a plan on how to remove barriers to opportunities in policies and programs. The order also moves to ensure that Americans of all backgrounds have equal access to federal government resources, benefits, and services.
Immigration and Muslim-Ban
With an executive order, President Biden has reinforced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protects from deportation immigrants brought to the United States as children, often called Dreamers. Trump endeavored for years to end the program, known as DACA. The order also calls on Congress to enact legislation providing permanent status and a path to citizenship for those immigrants.
Another executive order revokes the Trump administration’s plan to exclude non-citizens from the census count, and another overturns a Trump executive order that pushed aggressive efforts to find and deport unauthorized immigrants.
In a blow to one of his predecessor’s earliest actions to limit immigration, President Biden has also ended the so-called Muslim ban, which blocked travel to the United States from several predominantly Muslim and African countries. Biden has ordered the State Department to restart visa processing for individuals from the affected countries and to develop ways to address the harm caused to those who were prevented from coming to the United States because of the ban.
Maybe the most talked-about executive order was Biden signing a letter to re-enter the United States in the Paris climate accords, which it will officially rejoin 30 days from now. In 2019, President Trump formally notified the United Nations that the United States would withdraw from the coalition of nearly 200 countries working to move away from planet-warming fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas.
In additional executive orders, President Biden began the reversal of a slew of the Trump administration’s environmental policies, including revoking the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline which might cause issues in bilateral relations with Canada.
Biden administration is moving to extend a federal moratorium on evictions and has asked agencies, including the Agriculture, Veterans Affairs and Housing, and Urban Development Departments, to prolong a moratorium on foreclosures on federally guaranteed mortgages that was enacted in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The president is also moving to continue a pause on federal student loan interest and principal payments through the end of September, although progressive groups and some congressional Democrats, such as Bernice Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have pushed Biden to go much further and cancel up to $50,000 in student debt per person.
While these executive orders set a positive policy tone for Biden’s administration and gave hope to the American people, we should follow Biden’s administration with reservations, as it is known throughout history that while one might desire the best, it does not mean the one will be able to deliver it.