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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Biden signs racial equity executive orders

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President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed executive orders on housing and ending the Justice Department’s use of private prisons as part of what the White House is calling his “racial equity agenda.”

The big picture: Biden needs the support of Congress to push through police reform or new voting rights legislation. The executive orders serve as his down payment to immediately address systemic racism while he focuses on the pandemic.

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Details: Biden will direct the Department of Housing and Urban Development to examine how previous administrations undermined fair housing policies and laws, according to senior officials.

  • Another executive order directs the attorney general not to renew Justice Department contracts with privately operated criminal detention facilities. Domestic policy czar Susan Rice confirmed at a press briefing that the order does not apply to private immigration facilities, which fall under the Department of Homeland Security.
  • One executive order calls for “re-establishing federal respect for tribal sovereignty” following years of tension between tribal governments and former President Trump.
  • Biden also ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to examine how Trump’s rhetoric about COVID-19 may have led to discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

The intrigue: The Biden administration signaled the executive orders are a preview of what’s to come on its racial equity agenda as it prepares legislative proposals to fight discrimination and poverty.

The bottom line: Biden’s early moves on racial equity are a major shift in tone from Trump, who often praised Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, denounced research of slavery and racial justice, and ordered agencies to end diversity training.

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