President Joe Biden 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.”
However, 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 focusing on the pandemic.
Biden will direct the Department of Housing and Urban Development to examine how previous administrations undermined fair housing policies and laws.
One executive order directs the attorney general not to renew Justice Department contracts with privately operated criminal detention facilities. Another calls for “re-establishing federal respect for tribal sovereignty” following years of tension between tribal governments and former President Donald 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 Biden administration signaled the executive orders are a ‘sneak peek’ of what’s to come on its racial equity agenda, preparing legislative proposals to fight discrimination and poverty.
Biden’s early moves on racial equity constitute a significant shift in tone from Trump, who often denounced research of slavery and racial justice, and ordered agencies to end diversity training.