Alas, let’s get right into it shall we? In Today’s Installment of “the First 100 Days,” we will review the third and final installment of executive orders signed by the newly inaugurated President Biden on his very first day in office. Both part one and part two of this project include a list of the executive orders, a breakdown of what each of them means and some backstory if it’s relevant, as well as a variance of perspectives pertaining to each individual order. President Biden signed a record high number of executive orders on his first day in office, and breaking each of those orders down into layman’s terms has proven a time consumptive project. As such, we will do our very best to publish day two and day three in short order – in the hopes of catching up to the current presidential timeline. We will also keep the current format for the duration of the project (so far as is possible), which includes a summary of the order, a “what does it mean” section, and periodic “controversy alerts” to indicate decisions that have been at the forefront of controversy in the political sphere.
With all that said, let us start with the 12th executive order signed by President Biden on day one of his presidency:
12) President Biden extended a Trump designation that allows Liberians who have been in the United States for an extended period of time to remain. in its finality, the order would block the deportation of Liberians who have been living in the United States.
What does it mean?
In 2019, President Trump offered a reprieve to thousands of Liberians who were set to become illegal immigrants. The reprieve gave the Liberian refugees an additional year to get their affairs in order before being subjected to potential deportation. Originally, President Trump had set a March 31, 2019 deadline for the Liberians. Along with his reprieve, President Trump suggested Congress could grant the Liberians a full pathway to citizenship.
Biden’s executive order extends Trump’s deferred enforced departures (DED) designations through June 2022. The effort marks bipartisan respite for the Liberians, in the form of a humanitarian program.
Critics of the effort claim that the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) under the DED program allows unauthorized Liberian nationals to apply for green cards, provided they have lived in the United States for at least five years, but that the application fees are excessive, which means the majority of the Liberian nationals still have no path forward due to the financial burden.
Now, advocacy groups are pushing for a blanket waiver of the filing fees as a piggybacked effort on section 245 I of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, which exempts refugees from the fees required to apply for green cards.
As of now, there has been very little public criticism surrounding this order. The extension of Trump’s reprieve and the subsequent blocking of deportation is an effort to extend the window of time in which a solution to the aforementioned problems can be discovered.
13) Biden signed an executive order instructing the government to interpret the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as prohibiting workplace discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, as well as race, color, religion, sex and national origin. ** Note it is this order that prompted the recent backlash pertaining to women’s sports, because the order includes the following: “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports. . . . All persons should receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.”
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended segregation in public places on the basis of race and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The Civil Rights Act is considered one of the crowning glories of the American government and ranks among other substantial achievements such as the 13th amendment, which abolished slavery, the 14th amendment, which affirmed the right to vote regardless of race, and the 19th amendment which gave women the right to vote. However, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not specifically include the topics of sexual orientation and gender identity.
President Biden’s order is said to be one of the most substantiative and inclusive LGBTQ orders in the history of the United States, as it includes the group in the interpretation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Because the order ties civil rights concerning race, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity together under the Civil Rights Act, it ensures that places of employment cannot legally discriminate, terminate, or reject staff/applicants on the basis of sexuality or gender identity and safeguards the mandate with the same fervor previously seen in matters of race.
On June 15 of 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is a form of prohibited sex discrimination under the Civil Rights Act. Following that case, LGBT organizations called on the Department of Justice to expedite the application of the law. However, the Justice Department did not complete the assertion of the laws prior to Trump’s exit. Biden’s order will expedite the process and has been heralded as a great success in LGBTQ communities.
It is important to note that there are caveats to the executive order, as well as the Civil Rights Act. For example, private organizations that aren’t specifically “public-accommodations” and those that receive no federal funding can, in many cases, legally discriminate — in a manner of speaking. For example, a women’s fitness center can refuse to serve men, a men-only golf club can refuse to allow women, a children’s play center can refuse adults, etc.
Critics of the order state that a sweeping motion to include sexuality and gender identity opens the door for a plethora of problems, as there is no safeguard against abuse of the order. They assert that specific guidance and clarification of the laws are needed in order to avoid a “catch 22.” That is to say, to avoid discriminating against one group while engaged in an effort to stop discrimination against another, and/or to prevent individuals from taking advantage of the law.
For example, if the aforementioned women’s fitness center chooses to bar men from joining, can they then bar trans women from joining under the assertion of biology? If not, what would stop a man from joining under the guise of gender identity in order to use the establishment to exploit women? Or vice versa, can a men-only golf club refuse trans men on the assertion of biology? In various states, misappropriation of the law has resulted in misconduct. For example, one Seattle man, claiming to be transgender, visited a women’s locker-room at a public recreational center multiple times while little girls were changing clothes in preparation for swim practice. Despite their complaints, the center could do nothing legally and the police were never called. Purportedly, the man simply entered the locker room to “watch” on multiple occasions. In another incident, a man was sentenced to jail for sexually assaulting several young women in a women’s shelter after gaining access to the shelter and its showers by claiming to be transgender. Critics of the order claim the broad inclusion of gender identity is an infringement on the rights of others.
Further, critics claim that a sweeping law concerning sexuality and gender identity may inadvertently impose religious liberty discrimination on entire organizations seeking to operate within the confines of a faith-based perspective. For example, if a store owner specializing in Christian products operates the store as a faith-based organization, could they find themselves in legal trouble if they chose not to hire individuals whose sexual orientation is outside that of their faith-based ideals? Russell Moore serves as president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. In a statement pertaining to the Supreme Court ruling, he said, “The ruling also will have seismic implications for religious liberty, setting off potentially years of lawsuits and court struggles about what this means for religious organizations with religious convictions about the meaning of sex and sexuality.”
However, Jennifer Pizer, the law and policy director at an LGBTQ civil rights organization called Lambda Legal said, “This decision doesn’t change the fact that faith-based employers can prefer people of their same faith, and that may mean they have the freedom to not hire LGBTQ people,” she continued “That’s a question we don’t know the answer to.”
As it stands, there appears to be quite a bit of gray area in Biden’s new order, and critics of the move foresee the need for changes if the order is to protect the civil and religious liberties of all people and avoid the potential for serving some at the expense of others. There is likely to be much more to come in this arena.
14) President Biden signed an executive order enacting new ethics rules for government officials. The rules will require executive branch appointees to sign an ethics pledge, barring them from acting in their personal interest.
What does it mean?
This particular order seems fairly self-explanatory. However, it does include specific details that will impact executive appointees. The forthcoming ethics pledge will include a ban on certain types of lobbying for all executive appointees for at least two years after they leave the administration. Purportedly, the bill was designed to help restore and maintain public trust in the government.
According to the order, as a condition of employment, officials must commit to the refusal of gifts from registered lobbyists and also places a ban on the “revolving door.” The lobby ban asserts that appointees leaving the government are banned for two years from lobbying any other executive branch official or lobbying for any foreign government. Why is the lobby ban such a prominent part of executive administration? Because the role of lobbyists is controversial. Lobbyists are hired and paid by special-interest groups, corporations, nonprofits, civic organizations, and even various school districts to “exert influence over elected officials at all levels of government.”
Lobbyists are traditionally unpopular with the general public because they use money to influence government officials. The average American does not have the financial resources required to launch campaigns with enough staying power to influence members of Congress, which means that the general public feels lobbyists have an unfair advantage when it comes to reaching policymakers. On the other hand, lobbyists themselves say their goal is simply to make sure elected officials understand both sides of any issue before undergoing a decision-making process. Hours before leaving office, President Trump signed an executive order lifting his own five-year lobbying ban for members of his administration.
Purportedly, Biden’s executive order also addressed the golden parachute situation by banning his senior advisors from accepting bonuses from their former employers in return for joining his administration. The ban was made in an attempt to curb efforts by companies to influence the administration’s agenda.
President Biden had received heavy pressure from progressives to enforce stricter bans on lobbying. Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Ed Markey, and Senator Jeff Merkley wrote to Biden requesting an ethics pledge that includes a complete ban on lobbyists employed by any corporations from serving within his administration.
Those who support the executive order assert that it is a starting point for repairing the public’s confidence in the federal government, as well as in the electoral process.
Critics of the Biden administration assert that an “ethics pledge” is largely symbolic and a somewhat “laughable” endeavor that will have little to no bearing on public confidence in the government. They assert that the general public does not trust the Biden administration to enforce policies such as a lobby ban, and claim that many policy influencers already fly under the radar. Duff Conacher, coordinator of a non-profit called Democracy Watch says, “Secret, unethical lobbying is very easy to do…” Purportedly, many organizations get away with “secret” lobbying and endure no repercussions whatsoever. The majority of voters believe governmental promises pertaining to lobbyists are hollow. For this reason, among others, critics of Biden’s “ethics pledge” order say it’s too little, too late. In fact, Pew Research conducted at the close of the Obama administration revealed that only 17% of Americans have trust in the government. As for the Biden administration specifically, millions of Americans believe he secured his presidency through fraudulent means and media manipulation. A recent RMG Research poll of registered voters revealed that only 47% believe President Biden secured the election fairly. Surprisingly, the poll even found that 15% of Biden’s own voters believe some level of fraud secured their candidate’s position in the office.
Given the current climate, it stands to reason there will be more to come on this issue. However, it remains to be seen what additional measures the Biden administration may take to help improve public trust in the government and the electoral process.
15) An executive order reversing “regulatory process executive orders” enacted by the Trump administration. Directs OMB director to develop recommendations to modernize regulatory review and reverses Trump’s regulatory approval process.
What does it mean?
During his presidency, President Trump was very forthcoming about his effort to reduce regulatory burdens across the federal government, cut costs, shrink the size of the government, and increase transparency in government agencies. As a result of this effort, he put into place a number of executive orders concerning the operation of federal agencies. President Biden’s order is a sweeping effort to undo many of the reforms pertaining to the operation of government agencies that were put into place by the Trump administration. Biden’s order will immediately revoke the following Trump-era orders:
13771, which is an executive order that required government agencies to limit the incremental costs of new regulations under the supervision of the OMB Director.
13777, which required each government agency to designate a regulatory reform officer and establish a regulatory reform task force to oversee reform initiatives and recommend regulations to be repealed, as well as required agencies to measure and report their progress in implementing reforms.
13875, which required each executive department and agency to review, reduce and limit the number of federal advisory committees, as well as to terminate at least one-third of the existing advisory committees by September 30, 2019. This order also put a government-wide cap on the total number of advisory committees allowed within the federal government at 350.
13891, which required government agencies to treat guidance documents as “nonbinding both in law and in practice,” as well as to provide a clear statement of their nonbinding effect and offer opportunities for the public to petition for withdrawal or modification of guidance documents. The order also required a 30-day period of notice and comment for certain documents.
13892, which limited a government agency’s ability to enforce standards of conduct that are not posted publicly or issued in formal rulemaking. This order provided that agencies issuing notices of noncompliance must provide the affected party with an opportunity to be heard. The order also encouraged self-reporting of regulatory violations in exchange for reductions and/or waivers of civil penalties.
And 13893, which ensured compliance with the “pay-as-you-go” or PAYGO requirement which was first adopted in 2005. PAYGO mandates that agencies must propose ideas for reducing spending whenever any discretionary action is undertaken, particularly if that action would increase mandatory spending.
Critics of Biden’s order to roll back Trump’s reforms believe the effort is fiscally and economically irresponsible, allows for government agencies to operate “unchecked,” and is evidence of the Biden administration’s desire for “big government.”
1) President Biden issued a memorandum that directed officials to “preserve and fortify” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). The memorandum seeks to strengthen DACA protections for undocumented people who were brought into the country as children.
What does it mean?
DACA stands for deferred action for childhood arrivals. It’s a program that provides a certain level of amnesty to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. The program was formed through executive action by President Barack Obama in 2012. The program was designed to protect certain people who were brought to the United States illegally as children to be protected from deportation. The recipients of the program were called “Dreamers” and were allowed to apply for “deferred action” for a period of two years with the possibility for renewal. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service said that deferred action was a way to defer prosecutorial actions against certain immigrants for a finite period of time. However, the program did not provide legal status. To be eligible for the DACA program, immigrants had to be under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012, and had to have arrived in the United States prior to turning 16 years old. Further, they had to have lived in the country since June 15 of 2007. Additional requirements stated recipients must have a high school diploma or GED, and honorable discharge from the military, or be active students. Dreamers were also required to have a clean criminal record.
The Trump Administration sought to dissolve the DACA program in favor of new reforms, which included a provision that would offer a legal status opportunity for DACA recipients and others who would be eligible for DACA status. The administration estimated the total to be around 1.8 million people. However, the Senate rejected the plan.
Critics assert that Biden’s plan to continue DACA “as is” simply delays legal status for DACA recipients. They claim that the Biden administration and the media continually stated Trump’s plan was to remove all protections from DACA recipients, but that not only is the claim false, but that the Trump Administration’s four-pillar immigration plan provided something DACA does not — a pathway for Dreamers to finally gain legal status.
2) Biden signed an executive action repealing two Trump-era proclamations, known as the “travel ban” that restricted entry into the U.S. from certain countries. Biden told the State Department to restart visa processing for individuals from these countries. He also requested that the State Department develop ways to address any harm caused to individuals who were prohibited from coming to the United States because of the ban.
What does it mean?
In 2017, in an effort to protect the United States from foreign terrorists, President Trump put a travel plan into place that blocked travel to the United States from citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Korea, Yemen, Chad and North Korea. The travel ban also prohibited entry to political officials from Venezuela. Originally, Iraq was included in the list but was removed in the final version. The travel ban was passed by the Supreme Court and has been in place since. The mainstream media repeatedly called the travel ban a “Muslim ban,” but the Trump administration pushed back, stating that President Trump was passionate about protecting American citizens from terrorism. In a statement, he said, “this is not about religion – this is about terror and keeping our country safe.”
President Biden reversed the order, claiming it to be discriminatory. His supporters believe that some citizens of the banned countries, particularly those who were seeking asylum in the United States, may have suffered undue harm as a result of the travel restrictions. It is this assertion that has prompted President Biden to instruct the State Department to explore the process of reparation for anyone who may have been harmed during the time of the travel ban.
Critics of Biden’s actions claim he is making the United States vulnerable to foreign attack. Further, critics believe that at least some travel restrictions need to be in place in order to protect the United States from another incident like 9/11. Many have said that a complete reversal of the travel ban, without the implementation of a formal vetting process to protect America from people who may have hostile intent, is a mistake.