It has only been about a month since President Joe Biden’s inauguration. However, he has already made significant changes to U.S. policies made by the Trump administration, signing a storm of executive orders, directives, and memorandums.
One such change was Biden’s orders for the inclusion of American people of color. Biden signed an executive order to end the 1776 Commission, an attempt by Donald Trump to implement “patriotic education” in public schools rather than focus on controversial topics like slavery. He also called to combat racism against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders. “This is really important because hate crimes against Asians and Pacific Islanders are so overlooked, especially during the pandemic for Asians,” said one RHS student.
Biden also signed many orders protecting LGBTQ+ rights. One executive order was to simply combat discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender. This helped pave the way for the extension of the Fair Housing Act, which outlaws housing discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals. “As someone in the LGBTQ community, I’m really glad that Biden has laid legislation securing our rights,” says a sophomore at RHS.
One of the defining features of the Biden administration that differs from the previous one is climate action. Trump had exited the Paris Agreement, an international treaty that set a global framework for reducing global warming, and Biden signed to re-enter it. Biden also revoked the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, an oil pipeline that endangered wildlife. He paused new oil leases, such as the one set to drill the Alaska Wildlife Refuge, and established climate change as a national-security threat and a foreign-policy priority.
Another contrasting highlight between Biden and Trump are their stances on immigration. “I think it’s going to be very difficult to make [changes in immigration policy] happen,” said one student, referencing that Trump, who created the “America First” policy, had passed many orders to try to prevent immigration. However, Biden has started to knock them down. He revoked a Trump order that excluded undocumented immigrants from the census and signed for the preservation of DACA, an organization that helps young undocumented immigrants. Biden then revoked Trump’s travel ban on Muslims, stopped the construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall, extended protection from deportation for Liberians in the U.S., and ordered an end to “harsh and extreme immigration enforcement.” Additionally, he signed an executive order to end Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, as well as reunite separated migrant families in the U.S.-Mexico border.
Many RHS students agree that Biden’s most important actions at the moment are the ones addressing COVID-19. “President Biden’s already signed a bunch of orders for COVID-19 relief and regulation, like making masks mandatory,” one student said. “And in those orders, he directly addresses the problems that COVID-19 caused as well, like the lack of [medical] equipment.” As soon as he was in office, Biden rejoined the World Health Organization that the Trump administration left, announced a COVID-19 response coordinator, and re-established the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. He ordered for the expansion of COVID-19 testing, treatment access, and research. Biden also made masks a requirement on any federal property and for all federal workers, as well as at airports.
Biden started his presidential term strong, and many RHS students are looking forward to seeing what he has to offer over the next few years. “He obviously still hasn’t done much,” said a student. “But I feel like he will make many monumental changes, and I’m excited to see how he will keep the promises he made during his campaign.”
Graphic: Sunny Rhew