Well, here we are, in a continuation of President Biden’s first day in office. There’s still a lot to cover, so hopefully you’ve packed a lunch and had your coffee. You might notice that this next batch of executive orders is rife with “controversy alerts,” in keeping with the format presented in part one of this article. Moving down the list of orders, it seems President Biden made increasingly aggressive moves in some of the more controversial policy areas. As we move into the last half of the day-one orders, we should warn you that there will be a “part three” to this day-one saga, as the details surrounding each order are so robust that, well, you’d be reading all weekend if we tried to cram it all into one post. As of today, Biden has taken 75 notable policy actions since stepping into the Oval Office and we know we said the content would be parallel to the action today, but we’ll just have to chalk it up to a “campaign promise;” we heard that those don’t actually count, right? Never fear though, day two and day three are soon to follow, and while they too were very busy days, they’ve got nothing on day one.
With no further ado, let the content commence:
8) On day 1, President Biden signed an executive order designed to “embed equity across federal policymaking and rooting out systemic racism and other barriers to opportunity from federal programs and institutions.”
What does it mean?
This order rescinds the Trump administration’s 1776 Commission and will re-start racial sensitivity training that was previously halted. The Biden administration will also “direct every federal agency to undertake a baseline review of the state of equity within their agency and deliver an action plan within 200 days to address unequal barriers to opportunity in agency policies and programs.”
The 1776 Commission was designed to develop educational curricula for the teaching of American history, and in it, make an effort to focus on historical accounts with accuracy, but in a way that unifies Americans rather than placing a focus on division. Trump called the effort “patriotic education.” Purportedly, the organization was to push education in such a way that students are more focused on the “miracles” of American history and to highlight what we have overcome historically, racially, and industrially. The 1776 Commission was to be a replacement for The 1619 Project platform, which is an educational platform (now present in some 4,500 elementary schools across the U.S.) that was born from a paper by the same name (The 1619 Project), written by Nikole Hannah-Jones and published by the New York Times in August of 2019. Among other points, the project makes assertations about the founding of America by African slaves in the year 1619, a full 157 years prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Why did Trump want to replace 1619? The educational curriculum that was born from the essay and has shaped the development of the American education system’s material pertaining to the teaching of American history has come under sharp criticisms, as historians have repeatedly spoken out concerning issues with Hannah-Jones’s paper. For example, Princeton University’s Sean Wilentz, as well as historians Victoria Bynum, James McPherson, James Oakes, and Gordon Wood publicly called on the NYT to retract the inaccuracies in the project and to ensure they do not appear in the school curricula developed therefrom. However, in response to their call, they were met with opposition from The Times. But, The New York Times did publish a piece by columnist Bret Stephens, who penned an opinion piece criticizing The 1619 Project.
In the midst of it all, Princeton’s Wilentz wrote, “No effort to educate the public in order to advance social justice can afford to dispense with a respect for basic facts. In the long and continuing battle against oppression of every kind, an insistence on plain and accurate facts has been a powerful tool against propaganda that is widely accepted as truth. That tool is far too important to cede now.” His statements, along with those of his colleagues, coupled with academia’s critical backlash surrounding the accuracies of the work resulted in the National Association of Scholars (NAS) to call upon the Pulitzer Prize Board to revoke its 2020 award to Nikole Hannah-Jones. Twenty-one scholars signed the call, which can be found at the link above.
In the development of the 1776 Commission, and during a speech decrying The 1619 Project, Trump stated an educational system built on false historical claims should not be tolerated, asserting further that The 1619 Project teaches students that America was “founded on the principle of oppression, not freedom.” It should be noted that Hannah-Jones stood by her work for some time, stating that her critics, both in academia and otherwise, are merely oppressors of black women. However, she began to walk back her stance in September 2020 (the same month Trump started the 1776 Commission), stating in a Tweet, “The #1619Project does not argue that 1619 is our true founding. We know this nation marks its founding at 1776.” She made a similar statement on CNN as well. At the same time, the New York Times quietly deleted a segment of the paper asserting 1619 as the true founding date of America. There is no word yet on whether or not Hannah-Jones will lose her Pulitzer.
The still-fresh 1776 Commission published a report on January 18, 2021, by a group that was chaired by Churchill historian and Hillsdale College President Dr. Larry P. Arnn. The vice-chair was Dr. Carol M. Swain, a retired professor of political science. The commission maintained sixteen members and included historians, lawyers, academics, scholars, authors, former elected officials and past public servants. Despite this, whether because it was issued by a Trump-appointed group, or because the report called into question the now controversial 1619 Project, it received immediate criticism from the left, some even suggesting the report was an effort to “erase slavery.”
However, in rescinding the 1776 Commission, it cannot be implied that Biden is, by default, supporting the 1619 Project either, as his new order seems to imply a fresh take on education outside The 1619 Project platform. There will surely be more to come on this front.
9) President Biden issued an executive order rescinding Trump’s order to exclude undocumented immigrants/illegal aliens from the U.S. Census. The order now requires non-citizens to be included in the Census and be counted in the apportionment of congressional representatives.
What does it mean?
During his presidency, President Trump enacted in order to prevent illegal immigrants from being counted in the United States census for congressional apportionment. The administration asserted that representation in Congress and in the Senate is a right that belongs to legal American citizens. President Trump stated that counting illegal immigrants in a census designed to help apportion governmental powers gives political power to people who are not legally Americans. Given that immigration is such a hot button topic, Trump’s order was met with criticism from many on the left side of the aisle. As predicted, President Biden quickly sought to overturn the order in favor of his own. Biden’s executive order mandates that illegals be counted in the United States census and in the apportionment of Congressional and Senate seats. His administration believes all residents of the United States, regardless of immigration status, should be counted in order to ensure all people who fall into various governmental jurisdictions are adequately represented. The administration argues that counting illegal immigrants for congressional apportionment is the most constitutional approach.
Critics of president Biden’s order argue that the move is in fact unconstitutional and claim that it is nothing more than a political ploy seeking to usurp congressional and Senate seats allocated to predominantly “red” states. As it stands, states that are expected to lose congressional seats through the inclusion of illegal immigrants in the congressional apportionment include Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia. According to critics, the number of illegal immigrants residing in California during the 2010 census was enough to increase its number of congressional seats and votes in the Electoral College by around five seats, and those numbers are only increasing –adding fuel to a fire of opinion that asserts Biden’s executive order has less to do with adequately representing the people and more to do with political gain.
America’s population of unauthorized immigrants grows by about 500,000 people every year, which, when included in the census, will increase the number of seats in the House of Representatives and give more political power to states with a higher illegal immigrant population, concentrating the power of electoral votes in places like California, Texas and Arizona. These states already have more seats in Congress per legal citizen than do states where the number of illegal immigrants is fewer.
10) President Biden signed an executive order that revoked Trump’s immigration enforcement, which he called “harsh and extreme.” The order charged agencies with the task of setting immigration policies that are “in line” with the Biden administration’s “values and priorities.”
What does it mean?
President Trump formulated immigration policies that fell in line with his “America First” initiative. The America First initiative was designed to protect the interests of American workers and industries. Trump’s policy on immigration was a departure from a decades-old immigration policy that was centered on reunification, asylum and safe harbor. Trump’s immigration policy sought to restrict legal immigration (immigrants must meet certain requirements in order to apply for citizenship) and streamline the path to citizenship, complete the border wall between the United States and Mexico, limit the number of asylum-seekers allowed into the U.S. annually, stop illegal immigrants from receiving American benefits funded by taxpayers, eliminate, amend or reimagine the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), restrict travel and visas from certain countries, cap the number of refugees allowed into the United States each year, and make modifications to the H-1B visa program.
President Biden’s executive order rescinds the plan put into place by President Trump, but as of yet, the Biden administration has not formally presented its own plan for immigration reforms. However, Biden’s forthcoming plan is said to include a pathway to citizenship for more than 11 million undocumented immigrants, the provision of funding for college, government-subsidized healthcare, driver’s licenses and perhaps even an option for illegal immigrants to cast votes. the Biden administration says it seeks to uphold American ideals by continuing to open its arms to all of those who may seek a better way of life. Because no formal policy has yet been brought forth, many of these details are speculative and remain to be seen.
However, critics of Biden’s immigration ideas suggest that his administration will be putting an undue burden on American taxpayers, asserting that the number of illegal immigrants who do pay taxes do not pay in enough to offset the costly nature of the services with which they are provided. According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform, illegal immigration costs taxpayers more than $132 billion each year. Critics cite that the median tax payout for the average American citizen is around $5000 each year. However, the median tax payout for illegal immigrants in the country is less than $1000, which mathematically indicates a substantial inequality in tax burden for legal citizens. Critics also claim that an influx in undocumented immigrants will result in a larger labor pool for low-skill workers, which will then place an undue burden on the nation’s working class. Purportedly, an increased labor pool in this demographic would depress the wages for American workers and could potentially make it more difficult for the working class to find jobs.
11) President Biden signed a proclamation that will pause the construction of the border wall with Mexico and then determine how to divert the funds allocated for the wall elsewhere. This particular order includes an “immediate termination” of the national emergency declaration, which allowed the Trump administration to redirect money to the wall project.
What does it mean?
Supporters of this order suggest that the border wall, even when completed, would not have a significant impact on the influx of illegal substances into the United States, suggesting also that the wall would not actually be a significant deterrent for those seeking to cross the border illegally. Further, Biden’s supporters believe the border wall to be a waste of American funds that could be allocated elsewhere.
On the other hand, Biden has received sharp criticism for his decision, as his order resulted in the loss of thousands of American jobs. Many argue that the decision to halt the wall is based on political double-speak, bias and downright faulty information. Those in the Biden camp have maintained that the wall will have no impact on illegal immigrants crossing the border, but officials in cities along the border refute those statements and claim the wall is working. City officials in places like San Diego have confirmed that instances of illegal border crossings are, in fact, down significantly. According to Homeland Security data, the number of deportable illegal immigrants located by the U.S. Border Patrol plummeted by more than 89 percent over the five-year period during which the controversial project was underway.
Stay Tuned for Part 3 (* I know. I’m sorry, but there’s only one of me and the president gets a whole cabinet of people to do stuff around the clock, so it’s hard to keep up. Only five more orders and two actions left for day one, then we can finally get into day two. Haha!)
Read Part 1 HERE.