Immediately after being sworn into office on Jan. 20, President Joe Biden got to work signing 17 executive orders, memorandums, and directives meant in large part to undo his predecessor’s legacy and revert back to traditional political processes such as those of the Obama-era.
Biden first focused on the most urgent danger: the COVID-19 pandemic. The new president re-engaged the U.S. with the World Health Organization (WHO), a United Nations agency responsible for public health that Trump withdrew from amid the pandemic.
Additionally, Biden signed an executive order naming Jeffrey D. Zients as the official COVID-19 response coordinator. The order also restores the directorate for global health security and biodefense at the National Security Council which Trump previously disbanded. The new administration feels that the National Security Council, an organization aimed at promoting U.S. national security as well as economic prosperity by attacking outbreaks such as the coronavirus, will be a useful aid during the pandemic. Biden has also implemented a mask and social distancing mandate on federal grounds and by all federal employees. Because he cannot legally apply the same rules to the public, Biden has instead created the “100 days masking challenge,” encouraging Americans to help stop the spread.
Biden furthermore reversed many of Trump’s policies regarding immigration. The new president signed an order halting the construction of Trump’s border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and another ending the travel ban on immigrants trying to enter the U.S. from many predominantly Muslim and African countries. A separate executive order has been signed to include noncitizens in the census count, an idea protested by the Trump administration.
Biden’s deportation moratorium will halt the deportation of certain unauthorized immigrants for 100 days; another executive order maintains the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program which protects immigrants who were born in a foreign country but were raised in America for most of their childhood. A separate memo is focused on supporting Liberians by expediting green cards for those who are eligible for a legalization program as well as distributing more work permits and providing more deportation protection.
Along with immigrants, Biden has vowed to help LGBTQ+ individuals achieve fair treatment. On his first day as president, Biden signed an order requiring federal agencies to not only avoid discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, and national origin, but also on sexual orientation and gender identity, an idea presented to the Supreme Court by Aimee Stephens in Oct. 2019.
To further advance minority rights, Biden has enacted an executive order aimed at invoking “fair, just, and impartial treatment of all individuals” including those who “belong to underserved communities such as Black, Latino, Indigenous and Native American persons, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and other persons of color; LGBTQ+ persons; people with disabilities; religious minorities; persons who live in rural areas; and persons otherwise affected by persistent poverty or inequality.”
The new Commander-in-Chief is also working to support Americans in debt. Biden has asked the Education Department to halt student loan payment collections as well as interest accruements through at least September 30. Similarly, he has extended the eviction and foreclosure moratorium to at least March 31, as 12% of homeowners are late on their mortgage payments and 19% of renters are behind, according to a survey conducted by The Census Bureau.
The Biden administration is devoted to supporting the American people as well as to invoking global cooperation and working to resolve worldwide issues. In 2020, Trump formally withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement, a collection of more than 200 nations committed to slowing climate change by restricting the use of unhealthy fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas. Biden, however, signed a letter promising to officially rejoin the preservationist association in 30 days.
Biden also signed an executive order raising climate change to a national security priority; and signed another to reverse many of the Trump administration’s environmental orders such as the Keystone XL oil pipeline’s federal permit and a freeze on emission standards.
The many policies aimed at supporting those in need and enhancing the country —that were enacted less than 24 hours after the 2021 inauguration— show just how efficient the Biden administration plans to be. In one day, Biden signed almost the same number of executive orders that previous presidents took just under two weeks to enact: President Trump signed 18 within the first 12 days of his presidency -for an average of 1.5 executive actions per day- while President Obama signed 19 within the same time frame. With 17 new executive orders, memorandums, and directives signed on day one, many Americans are excited to see what this devoted group of individuals can accomplish within the next four years.