Sasha Borissenko: US President Joe Biden’s busy first days in office

OPINION:

Finally, the Don is Gone. One could go so far as to suggest former US President Donald Trump lasted too many “Scaramuccis”. The Scaramucci is defined as 11 days (a micromucci is of course 11 hours, a millimuicci is 1.1 days), which is named after the number of days former White House director of communications Anthony Scaramucci lasted under Trump. But I digress.

What’s an executive order?

Just a day into his term ,President Joe Biden signed 17 executive actions, 15 of them executive orders. Before we look at what those are, we have to ask, what exactly are these? Typically an order is a signed, written, and published directive from a president that manages operations of the federal government.

The president’s authority must derive from the Constitution or federal law. If it is found that it is outside the scope of the president’s authority, Congress and Federal courts can strike down said orders. The official number of executive orders made in US history come to about 14,000, but there may be as many as 50,000 unnumbered orders.

Franklin Roosevolt was notoriously trigger-happy when it came to this function, having done 3721 throughout his presidency, five of which were overturned in 1935. He famously forbade the hoarding of gold throughout the Depression Era, and issued military authority to confine Japanese and German Americans to internment camps during World War II.

Immigration orders

Back to Biden: just hours after being sworn in as president, he reversed several Trump immigration policies – including Trump’s attempt to exclude undocumented people from the national census, and putting an end Trump’s emergency declaration used to justify construction of a wall on the US-Mexico border.

Biden also rolled back Trump’s policy to expand interior immigration law enforcement – a move signed just five days after Trump took office, which made any of the 10.5 million undocumented people in the US a deportation priority – even those protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals legislative framework.

Biden also ended the travel ban from Muslim-majority countries implemented by Trump, instructing the state department to restart visa processing for the countries involved. Biden has also pledged to remedy harms caused by the ban, particularly for those who had visas denied.

Environment orders

Of the suite of climate-change related orders, Biden pledged to rejoin the Paris climate agreement; he revoked the permit granted for the Keystone XL pipeline, a multi-billion dollar project that would move oil from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast; and for executive agencies to review former executive actions that were “damaging to the environment” or “unsupported by the best available science”. Meow meow.

Covid-19 orders

In terms of Covid-19, Biden signed orders to rejoin the World Health Organisation; mandate social distancing and mask-wearing in federal buildings, federal lands, and by federal employees and contractors; and to create an official position of Covid-19 Response Coordinator.

Orders of beauty

Other orders include asking the Centres for Disease Control and Protection to extend the moratorium on foreclosures and evictions to March 31, and to extend the pause on student loan payments and interest until September 30.

Speaking of orders that could be implemented here in Aotearoa, Biden ordered federal agencies to review equity in their existing policies and deliver a plan of action within 200 days to address “unequal barriers to opportunities in agency policy and programmes”.

The Office of Management and Budget will have to review whether federal money is being used fairly across marginalised communities.

The order itself says it best: “Every person should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear, no matter who they are or whom they love.

“Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.

“Adults should be able to earn a living and pursue a vocation knowing that they will not be fired, demoted, or mistreated because of whom they go home to or because how they dress does not conform to sex-based stereotypes.

“People should be able to access healthcare and secure a roof over their heads without being subjected to sex discrimination. All persons should receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.”

I’m not crying, you’re crying.

If you’ve got any tips, legal tidbits, or appointments that might be of interest, please email Sasha – on [email protected]

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