President Biden was sworn into office on Jan. 20, and in two weeks, he has signed a spate of executive orders, many of which aim to undo his predecessor’s policies.
Biden signed his most recent slew of orders Tuesday targeting immigration with a focus on family separations, border security, and the legal immigration system, reimagining America’s place in the world after four years of Donald Trump’s “America First” vision.
In addition to Tuesday’s trio of orders, the Biden administration has put in place a number of sweeping measures since his first day in office. Here’s a look at each executive order organized by the day in which it was signed, and a brief summary of the orders mean.
Establishment of a family separation task force
An executive order announced Tuesday will create a task force to reunite children who were separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border under Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy. The task force will be chaired by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who was sworn in Tuesday after his nomination was confirmed by the Senate.
The order will address the possibility of legal status in the United States for separated families and providing mental health services.
Reviewing protocols at the border
The order will review, though not cancel, a policy that makes asylum-seekers wait in Mexican border cities for hearings in US immigration court. Homeland Security will be directed to review the Migrant Protection Protocols policy, known as “Remain in Mexico,” which has left thousands of asylum seekers waiting in dangerous and deplorable conditions on the border.
Biden also asked for “a phased strategy for the safe and orderly entry into the United States” of those already enrolled who are waiting in Mexico for a judge to decide their cases.
The order additionally called on US border officials to review a public health order that allows for the expulsion of migrants at the border. The Homeland Security secretary, Human and Health Services secretary, and CDC director are “taking steps” to reinstate the reception of arriving migrants “consistent with public health and safety and capacity constraints.”
The order also calls for the suspension and termination of the Trump-era agreements with Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador that allowed the US to send migrants seeking asylum to one of those countries, instead of admitting them.
Another order calls for a review of the fast-tracked deportation process called “expedited removal,” which allows immigration authorities to remove an individual without a hearing before an immigration judge.
Reviewing the legal immigration system
Biden signed an executive order seeking to promote immigrant integration and inclusion, and reestablish a Task Force on New Americans. The order calls for a review of the public charge rule which makes it more difficult for immigrants to obtain legal status if they use public benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps, and housing vouchers.
The order also kickstarts a review of the naturalization process, making it more accessible by reducing processing times.
Strengthening Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act
resident Biden signed an order protecting and strengthening Medicaid and the ACA. The order called on the secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a special enrollment period from Feb. 15 to May 15 for uninsured and under-insured Americans to sign up for coverage on Healthcare.gov. The order also calls on agency officials to review policies and practices for people with pre-existing conditions, including complications related to COVID-19.
Memorandum expanding access to abortion services
Biden signed a memorandum that rescinds the “Mexico City Policy,” which was a Reagan-era policy reinstated by Trump that blocks federal funding to foreign organizations that perform abortions or provide abortion counseling or referrals. Biden additionally directed the Department of Health and Human Services to evaluate whether to remove Trump regulations under Title X, which pulled funding from women’s health clinics across the country in 2019.
Tackling the climate crisis at home and abroad
Biden signed an order putting the climate crisis at the center of US foreign policy and national security. The order called on the US to determine its target for emissions reduction and directed federal agencies to include climate considerations in their international plans. The order further directed agencies to buy American-made, zero-emission vehicles, suspend new oil and natural gas leases on public lands, and conserve at least 30 percent of federal land and waters by 2030. The order also established a Domestic Climate Policy, an environmental justice council, and a national climate task force, as well as a working group to help communities impacted by coal mining and power plants.
Restoring the Council of Advisors on Science and Technology
The president re-established a council of advisors on science and technology, which will advise Biden’s administration “to make evidence-based decisions guided by the best available science and data.” The council, which will meet regularly, will be composed of up to 26 members.
A related memorandum signed on the same day instructs the director of the Office of Science and Technology to “ensure agency research programs are scientifically and technologically well-founded and conducted with integrity.” The memo is meant to restore trust in government through scientific integrity and evidence-based policymaking.
Eliminating use of privately operated criminal detention facilities
Biden signed an order aiming to decrease incarceration levels by reducing profit-based incentives to incarcerate. The order asks the attorney general to not renew Department of Justice contracts with privately-operated criminal detention facilities.
Strengthening “Buy American” agenda
Biden signed an executive order to strengthen the “Buy American” rules by closing loopholes and reducing waivers on federal purchases of domestic goods.
Reversing transgender military ban
Biden signed an order repealing a ban on transgender people serving openly in the military. The president asked the defense secretary to immediately prohibit involuntary separations, discharges, and denials of reenlistment on the basis of gender identity.
Memorandum redressing government’s history of discriminatory housing practices and policies
Biden signed a memo ordering the secretary of Housing and Urban Development to review Trump-era policies, like the “Preserving Community and Neighborhood Choice” rule, and take necessary steps to prevent practices with an unjustified discriminatory effect on fair housing.
Memorandum strengthening relationships with tribal nations
Biden signed a memo recommitting all executive departments and agencies with engaging in “regular, meaningful, and robust” consultation with Tribal officials. Biden said it was a priority for his administration to make respect for Tribal sovereignty and self-governance.
Memorandum combating racism and xenophobia against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
Biden signed a memo acknowledging the inflammatory and xenophobic rhetoric directed toward Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and the role the government played in furthering those xenophobic sentiments, putting members of these communities and their families at risk. The memo asks the secretary of Health and Human Services to consider issuing guidance for advancing cultural competency, language access, and sensitivity toward Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the context of the nation’s COVID-19 response.
Reinstating COVID-19 travel restrictions
Based on recent developments with COVID-19 and its variants, Biden reinstated travel restrictions for individuals entering the US from the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, and South Africa.
Establishing economic relief related to the pandemic
The order aims to provide economic relief to individuals, families, and small businesses as well as state, local, tribal, and territorial governments. Biden directed all government departments and agencies to “promptly identify actions they can take within existing authorities” to address the current economic crisis.
Increasing food assistance benefits
In Biden’s order, he asked the Department of Agriculture to allow states to increase Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits — commonly known as food stamps — and to increase by 15 percent benefits awarded through a school meals program for low-income students during the pandemic.
Protecting and empowering federal workers and contractors
In an effort to undo Trump-era regulations that rolled back protections for federal employees, Biden revoked a variety of measures in an executive order aimed to empower and rebuild the career federal workforce, and also encourage union organizing and collective bargaining.
The order also requests that the Department of Labor develop recommendations that all federal government employees receive a minimum wage of $15 per hour.
Ensuring a science-driven response to COVID-19
Under this order, the heads of all executive departments and agencies must facilitate the “gathering, sharing, and publication of COVID-19-related data” in order to inform their decision-making and public understanding of the pandemic.
Equitable pandemic response and recovery task force
In an effort to address the disproportionate and severe impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, the Biden administration established a Health Equity Task Force as part of an order to help mitigate the health inequities caused or exacerbated by the pandemic.
Establishment of a COVID-19 testing board
Biden’s order calls for a national COVID-19 testing and public health workforce strategy to expand the supply of tests, enhance laboratory testing capacity, expand the public health workforce, and support screening testing for schools and priority locations, as well as ensure a clear message about the use of tests and insurance coverage.
Improving and expanding access to COVID-19 treatment
The executive order aims to improve the capacity of the nation’s health care system to address COVID-19, accelerate development of new therapies, and improve access to quality and affordable healthcare nationwide. The order directs the secretary of Health and Human Services to call for a plan supporting a range of large-scale studies and randomized trials, identifying optimal clinical management strategies, and for supporting the most promising treatments for COVID-19. The order targets long-term care facilities like nursing homes.
Promoting COVID safety for domestic and international travel
In an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 through travel, an executive order called on several agencies to issue mask mandates on all forms of public transportation, including airports, airplanes, buses, trains, and ferries.
Protecting worker health and safety
The order, which is directed at the Department of Labor, issues new guidance for employers to promote the health and safety of their workers, such as mask-wearing in the workplace.
Supporting the reopening of schools and early education programs
In an effort to keep millions of Americans in school, the president called on the Department of Education to provide evidence-based guidance to assist states, elementary schools, and secondary schools in deciding whether and how to reopen, and how to remain open for in-person learning.
Supporting a sustainable public health supply chain
The order directs immediate actions to secure supplies necessary for responding to the pandemic, including a review of the availability of critical materials, treatments, and supplies needed to combat COVID-19. The order invoked the Defense Production Act to ramp up supplies, as well as develop a strategy to manufacture supplies for “future pandemics and biological threats.”
Suspending VA debt collection
Biden signed an order requesting the Veterans Association to extend debt relief to veterans until the public health and economic crisis are at bay.
Guaranteeing unemployment benefits for those who won’t work due to COVID-19
Biden asked the Department of Labor to clarify that workers who refuse unsafe working conditions can still receive unemployment insurance.
Recommitting the United States to the Paris Agreement on climate change
Biden signed a letter promising that the United States would rejoin the Paris climate accord. Nearly 200 countries have committed to reducing their carbon emissions as part of the agreement.
As president, Donald Trump formally withdrew the country from the Paris Agreement.
Advancing racial equity and support for underserved communities
Biden ordered each agency in the federal government to conduct an equity assessment to determine whether its “programs and policies perpetuate systemic barriers to opportunities and benefits for people of color and other underserved groups.”
The aim of the assessment is to “better equip agencies to develop policies and programs that deliver resources and benefits equitably to all.”
Mandating that anyone on federal property wears a mask
Following recommended measures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the coronavirus, Biden is requiring that all individuals either in federal buildings or on federal land “wear masks, maintain physical distance, and adhere to other public health measures.”
Biden also encouraged — but did not mandate — mask-wearing nationwide.
“Put simply, masks and other public health measures reduce the spread of the disease, particularly when communities make widespread use of such measures, and thus save lives.”
Coordinating a unified government response to combating COVID-19
In order to “aggressively” tackle the coronavirus pandemic — the disease has claimed the lives of more than 400,000 in the United States alone — Biden signed an order creating the position of a COVID-19 response coordinator and counselor to the president.
In this role, Jeffrey D. Zients will advise Biden and executive departments on the coronavirus response and coordinate all levels of the response, including “efforts to produce, supply, and distribute personal protective equipment, vaccines, tests, and other supplies.”
The order also takes other steps to organize both the White House and government “to combat COVID-19 and prepare for future biological and pandemic threats.”
Revising immigration enforcement policies
Biden revoked a Trump-era policy that increased the use of state and local police to enforce immigration law, punished communities shielding undocumented immigrants from deportation, and increased immigration prosecutions.
Biden said the policy of his administration is to “protect national and border security” while also addressing the “humanitarian challenges at the southern border” and ensuring “public health and safety.”
Revoking Trump-era actions on federal regulations
This order revokes executive orders signed by Trump that restricted the ability of federal agencies to make regulatory changes, which Biden called “harmful” and said “threaten to frustrate” the government’s ability to tackle challenges like climate change and the pandemic.
“To tackle these challenges effectively, executive departments and agencies must be equipped with the flexibility to use robust regulatory action to address national priorities.”
Affirming that undocumented immigrants are to be included in the census count
While president, Trump signed a memo in July that attempted to exclude undocumented immigrants from the national population count that happens every decade.
Biden’s order overturned that effort, saying Trump’s policy “conflicted with the principle of equal representation enshrined in our Constitution, census statutes, and historical tradition.
“The policy further required the Census Bureau to inappropriately rely on records related to immigration status that were likely to be incomplete and inaccurate.”
Addressing the climate crisis and advancing environmental justice
Biden’s order commits to advancing “environmental justice,” which includes his administration prioritizing a number of climate-related initiatives, among them, ensuring access to clean air and water, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and holding polluters who “disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities” accountable.
Part of this climate-focused order includes all executive departments and agencies being ordered to review — and if necessary, address — the regulations and actions put in effect during the Trump-era that “conflict with these important national objectives.” Trump rolled back more than 125 environmental safeguards while in office.
Biden also paused oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and revoked the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.
Banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity
Biden’s order directs federal agencies to interpret existing laws prohibiting sex discrimination as also covering sexual orientation and gender identity.
The order builds off Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Bostock v. Clayton County, a Supreme Court decision that said “laws that prohibit sex discrimination ... along with their respective implementing regulations — prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.”
Mandating that all government appointees commit to an ethics pledge
Biden’s order mandates that all appointees in every government agency sign an ethics pledge that prohibits them from accepting gifts from registered lobbyists and lobbying for at least two years after leaving government.
Pausing federal student loan payments
Biden requested an extension on the pause of federal student loan payments and collections, and to keep the interest rate at zero percent.
“Too many Americans are struggling to pay for basic necessities and to provide for their families. They should not be forced to choose between paying their student loans and putting food on the table.”
Material from Globe wire services was used in this report.