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Biden/Harris Kick Off with a Wave of Executive Orders

(Saul Loeb)

Black voters who came out in record numbers in November got a taste of what’s to come the very day Supreme Court Justice John Robert swore Joe Biden in as president during his inauguration.

Mere hours after inaugural fireworks, Biden and his vice president, former California Sen. Kamala Harris, set upon issues concerning a majority of the nation. Particularly, those issues helping people who are aching financially from a pandemic, desperately in need healthcare, and people who are getting shot by police in their own bedrooms.

Biden signed a burst of actions, memorandums and executive orders to undo just about everything voters hated about the Trump era. The new president delivered a total of 30 executive actions by the end of his first week, but up to 53 executive items are on the way by the end of January. First up on the chopping block was the reversal of Trump’s racist immigration policy banning majority Muslim nations.

In late January 2017, only a handful of weeks after Trump first shuffled into the White House, about 1,000 furious attorneys and activists had to abruptly walk away from their lives and converge upon Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Without warning, Trump had issued an executive action barring certain refugees from entering the United States. The arbitrary order halted all refugee resettlement into the U.S. for 120 days. Trump also imposed an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria and suspended entry of immigrants from the nations of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days. There was no denying the intended target of the ban: all included countries were Muslim-majority nations.

Despite the immediate success of attorneys storming O’Hare, the ban remained in place, bolstered by a handful of judges and the administration’s determination to adapt the ban to circumvent legal restrictions.

Today, that ban is officially busted with one sleepy pen stroke. Matt Adams, legal director for the Northwest Immigrants Rights Project called the reversal a triumph for the nation.

“The fact that President Bident took immediate action demonstrates that he understands very clearly how critical it is for our country to strongly reject Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda and return to our values as a country that embraces its immigrant history and embraces a multicultural society,” Adams told Lighthouse in an email.

Trump’s nativistic bent was apparent in more than one way. In early 2018, the Trump administration also officially fessed-up to a zero-tolerance immigration policy for punishing immigrant families attempting to illegally cross the U.S. border. The tactic involved holding adults in federal jails and launching prosecution against them, while their children were hauled off and dumped with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The charges against the parents were garbage, and a large proportion of the people being “prosecuted” were never actually criminally prosecuted because prosecutors could only hit them for “criminal entry,” which is a misdemeanor. Trump lackeys intended the policy as a punitive measure to deter people fleeing persecution in their own country. Americans and the world were horrified by Trump’s child separation policy, but Biden appears to be making moves to undo that by changing Trump’s arrest priorities for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). On Jan. 29, Biden signed executive orders creating a task force to reunify separated families. In addition to that, he called a halt to Trump’s onerous border wall construction and killed the national emergency declaration Trump used to divert military money to wall.

Seattle attorney Margaret O’Donnell said she was pleased with the immigration reform plan Biden is sending to Congress but said the plan itself is not a guarantee.

“I’m elated President Biden sent the plan on his first day in office, but we’ve been here before, with a big plan before Congress, and every hope it would become law,” O’Donnell told Lighthouse. “In January 2013, we almost had one; a bipartisan Kennedy-McCain bill. It failed. So I think the entire undocumented immigrant community and their families, friends and employers are waiting to see what happens before betting the farm on reform.”

She added immigrant advocates would have to work hard to “combat false information about immigration” so Biden’s bill has a fair chance at bipartisan support.

Biden also halted deportations for the next 100 days, a move that sparked a suit from Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton. Paxton called the deportation freeze a violation of immigration law.

“Our state defends the largest section of the southern border in the nation. Failure to properly enforce the law will directly and immediately endanger our citizens and law enforcement personnel,” Paxton claims.

Along with the immigration changes cited above, early executive orders dealt with the “four crises” of the pandemic, climate change, the economy and equity. This included, among other things, orders mandating masks on federal property and an extension of the national eviction moratorium until the end of March.

Biden also signed statements rejoining the nation into the Paris Climate Agreement, which provides a timeline to reduce climate-impacting carbon dioxide. Trump, who does not believe in climate change and called it a Chinese hoax, removed the U.S. from the agreement late last year. Biden also put an end to the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and revoked oil and gas development in or near national wildlife monuments.

Biden also delivered his first move to advance racial equity by requiring federal agencies to review equity in their programs and actions. The new president immediately removed Trump’s idiotic 1776 Commission, an 18-member board Trump created to produce reports and yellow journalism to make white people feel better about being horrible for the last 200 years. The 1776 Commission published anti-historical accounts that played down events like slavery, lynching and other heinous crimes legally allowed for much of U.S. history.

Biden also demanded LGBTQ protections by issuing an executive order prohibiting discrimination “because of sex.” Biden’s order demands federal agencies review existing regulations and policies that prohibit sex discrimination, and to revise them as necessary to clarify that “sex” includes sexual orientation and gender identity. The move angered many conservatives who apparently don’t want the LGBTQ community to be protected.

Ryan T. Anderson, a fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, called the executive order “radical” and “divisive,” and claimed it “threatens the privacy and safety of women in single-sex facilities.”

Biden revealed exactly how much he cares about the Heritage Foundation by signing an additional executive order reversing Trump’s attempt to ban transgender individuals from the military.

The Biden/Harris administration is clearly jumping all in on reversing course from a Trump-y nation, but executive orders are easy to issue. The administration remains impeded by the Mitch McConnell Senate, which is likely to oppose meaningful, far-reaching legislation such as a $15 minimum wage, despite being a minority. As of January 25, McConnell is refusing to surrender Republican committee chairs in the Senate, despite his GOP having fewer votes in that chamber.


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