President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and their spouses during the 59th inauguration in D.C.

Staying Informed Post-Election: A Breakdown of Biden’s Executive Orders

Many have taken to social media to declare that the age of political awareness is over just because the election is over. And it might feel nice for November and 2020 as a whole to finally be behind us but let’s be clear. The eagerness and willingness to set aside political awareness so readily comes from privilege. It comes from knowing that there is no amount of policy change that can get in the way of one’s daily comforts and security. 

As a second-generation college student whose entire life is provided for, I am tempted to fall into this place of privilege as well. But I can’t forget that elections aren’t just for the moment. It’s everything that happens in-between that should inform my decision the next time everyone starts busting out their “Are YOU registered to vote?” infographics. 

So as a first step in being informed on what the new Biden administration is getting up to, let’s break down all of Biden’s executive orders (so far). If you don’t know what an executive order is or how the President derives the authority to make these executive orders, think of them as instructions for the executive agencies and government agencies to follow that do not have to get approved by the legislative branch. 

Biden has issued executive orders in the following areas: Coronavirus, economy, environment, equity, ethics, healthcare, immigration, national security, regulation and census. 

  1. Immigration

Within the 10 executive orders focused on immigration, 8 of them are reversals of Trump policy. Some of the most notable being the order revoking Trump’s justification for separating families at the border, the order reversing Trump’s ban on US entry from the seven Muslim-majority countries and the order halting the construction of the wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. A number of Biden’s orders also work to make it easier for refugees to come to the U.S, specifically for the LGBTQI+ community and Liberians. Biden has also fortified Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that protects immigrant children from deportation. After four years of Trump’s administration seeking to dismantle DACE, this executive order comes as a huge relief to those who rely on the program to remain in the places they call home.

  1. Environment 

Biden has issued 5 executive orders focused on the environment. The two Trump policy reversals target key issues in energy: the Paris climate accord and the Keystone XL pipeline. The Biden administration has decided that the U.S. will rejoin the Paris climate accord, an international agreement to commit limiting emissions and increase those commitments over time. The Keystone XL pipeline has endured a back-and-forth battle since it was initially proposed in 2008 as a way to pipe Canadian tar sands crude from Alberta to various processing hubs in the middle of the United States. Environmentalists, regular citizens and protected Native American groups have been fighting against the pipeline for the public health and environmental risks that may be caused by the construction, maintenance and potential failures of the pipeline. With the remaining three environmental executive orders, Biden has placed an emphasis on Science and Technology in the White House and has established a new emissions reduction target.

  1. Equity

Seven of Biden’s executive orders have been focused on equity. The most talked about is the reversal of Trump's ban on transgenders joining the military. Some other notable orders include the prevention of workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and the order directing the attorney general not to renew federal contracts with private prisons. The reason the private prison order is important is because it is a very important step in ending mass incarceration. According to David Fathi, director of the National Prison Project at the ACLU, this executive order will curb the interest of private corporations in maintaining and perpetuating mass incarceration.

  1. Coronavirus

As expected and as promised, Biden has focused on the pandemic in issuing his executive orders. So far, he has issued 15 orders for the coronavirus that range from mask mandates for travel to directing FEMA to create community vaccination centers. For reversals, Biden has halted the U.S.’s withdrawal from the WHO and reinstated Covid-19 travel restrictions for individuals traveling to the United States from the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, Ireland and South Africa. For a complete list of Biden’s executive orders, you can head to the Federal Register