President Biden signing papers into action. Source: The New York Times

1st Day into Office: President Biden’s 17 Executive Orders

January 21, 2021

Following his inauguration on Wednesday, President Biden immediately signed seventeen executive orders into place. To clarify, executive orders are directives created by the President that are not legislation and do not require Congressional approval. Congress can make it difficult for the executive orders to take place, but the order itself can only be overturned by other sitting presidents. This is the case with many of President Biden’s orders, where nine out of the seventeen directly reverse actions taken by the previous Trump administration.

Keeping with the new administration’s focus on the ongoing pandemic, these first three executive orders have to do with how the United States handles Covid-19.


  • Required masks on federal property: This order is not to be confused with a national mask mandate, which would face legal difficulties. Masks and social distancing are required only on federal property and by federal employees. The general public is recommended to wear masks and follow regulations in Biden’s “100-day mask challenge”.


  • Remain in the World Health Organization (WHO): Reversing the previous administration’s decision to withdraw from the World Health Organization, this order reinstates funding and membership. Dr. Anthony Fauci will lead the US delegation. 


  • Create Covid-19 Response Coordinator position: The creation of this position places Jeffrey Zients as the coordinator of the US pandemic response. He will manage medical equipment and vaccine production and distribution. This order also reverses the previous administration’s disbanding of the directorate for global health security and biodefense at the National Security Council.


The Covid-19 pandemic also placed strains on the nation’s economy and financial situations, which these two following executive orders address.


  • Extend moratorium on evictions: This order extends the nationwide prohibition of evictions and foreclosures until March 31, 2021. 


  • Extend pause on student loan payments: This order extends the pause on student loan principal and interest payments until September 30, 2021.


Shifting from viruses to visas, these next five executive orders tackle immigration in the United States.


  • Support Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program: This order defends and bolsters the DACA program for young undocumented immigrants. This program was previously challenged by the Trump administration but was upheld by the Supreme Court.


  • Halt construction of border wall: This terminates the national emergency declaration used by the previous administration to fund the southern border wall, halting all construction.


  • End travel ban on Muslim-majority and African countries: This order reverses the “Muslim ban” created by the Trump administration, which restricted entry to the US from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Eritrea, Nigeria, Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan, and Tanzania. Visa applications from these countries will restart.


  • Alter Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) instructions: The Biden White House team states that they will “set civil immigration enforcement policies that best protect the American people and are in line with our values and priorities.” This order reverses the Trump administration’s orders to increase and stricken interior immigration enforcement to deport undocumented immigrants.


  • Extend protections for Liberians: This order extends the work authorizations and deportation deferrals until June 30, 2022, for Liberians living in the United States as a safe haven.


The next two executive orders reverse environmental actions taken by the previous Trump administration.


  • Rejoin Paris climate accords: This order reverses the previous administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. Rejoining includes limiting fossil fuel use, and will take 30 days to process.


  • Cancel Keystone XL Pipeline: This order revokes the permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline, as well as reverses more than 100 other environmental policies set in place by the Trump administration.


The final five of President Biden’s executive orders cover human rights, equity, and regulation.


  • Include noncitizens in the Census: This reverses the Trump administration’s July 2020 order to not include undocumented Americans in the census count. Including them will impact the allocation of federal funds, as well as the apportionment of federal representation. 


  • Promote racial equity in government: Each federal agency is required to review and foster equity in its programs. This order revokes the Trump administration’s limitations placed on diversity and inclusion training. It also discontinues the previous administration’s 1776 Commission, which judged if American education was adequately patriotic. 


  • Prevent workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity: Supporting Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, this order prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.


  • Required executive branch ethics pledge: All appointees of the executive branch must sign an ethics pledge, promising to “uphold the independence of the Department of Justice” and to not act in personal interest.


  • Freeze last-minute regulations by the previous administration: This order freezes all new regulations from the Trump administration so that they can be reviewed by the new administration. It also creates changes to the previous administration’s regulatory review and approval process.


The newly inaugurated President’s day one executive orders demonstrate the lasting tradition of a smooth transition of power in the United States. Amidst chaotic marches and protests, the presidential reins of government will continue to shift and new administrations will continue to create change. What are your thoughts?