President Joe Biden moved to “preserve and fortify” executive action that shields certain undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as young children, said in an executive order that laws that prohibit sex discrimination also prohibit discrimination against gender identity, and in another executive order initiated a government-wide push to emphasize racial equity on his first day as president.
Biden also revoked an executive order from outgoing President Donald Trump that created a commission to promote “patriotic education” in schools and elsewhere. That group, the 1776 Commission released a report Monday that lamented what it called the role of identity politics and the progressive movement in historical studies; it was criticized by many historians for how it treated slavery and other elements of American history.
Biden took these and several other executive actions Wednesday, when he was inaugurated as the nation’s 46th president. For months, Biden has pledged to reverse Trump administration actions on a variety of fronts, including on hot-button education issues. Wednesday’s raft of executive orders accomplished that goal, and also demonstrated his administration’s early priorities.
“These actions are bold, begin the work of following through on President-elect Biden’s promises to the American people, and, importantly, fall within the constitutional role for the president,” Biden’s transition team said in a statement Wednesday.
Racial Equity and DACA
Biden issued a memorandum “preserving and fortifying” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which provides certain legal protections to people who came to the country as undocumented immigrants while still young children, and he assigned this task to the Department of Homeland Security and the Attorney General.
He also said he would push Congress to create a path to citizenship for those protected by DACA. President Barack Obama instituted DACA in 2012, and Trump unsuccessfully tried to eliminate it. It’s worth remembering that Congress has tried but failed to address DACA in recent years as part of broader immigration legislation. As of roughly three years ago, an estimated 9,000 educators were protected by DACA. Preserving the program has been a priority for many education groups.
“Many are serving our country in the armed services or as essential workers on the front lines of the pandemic,” Biden’s announcement of these and other executive actions, released Wednesday before his inauguration, said of those helped by DACA.
These actions are bold, begin the work of following through on President-elect Biden’s promises to the American people, and, importantly, fall within the constitutional role for the president.
Elsewhere, the executive order Biden signed on Wednesday for “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government” will mean lead to “an equity assessment in federal agencies,” designating federal resources “to advance fairness and opportunity,” and the establishment of a new “equitable data working group,” among other things.
In the same order, Biden revoked Trump’s executive order that promoted “patriotic education” and established the 1776 Commission.
In addition, the order revoked a Trump executive order that cracked down on diversity and inclusion training in the federal government.
Transgender Rights and Student Loans
Separately, Biden signed an executive order interpreting the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year in the Bostock v. Clayton County case to mean that “laws that prohibit sex discrimination ... prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, so long as the laws do not contain sufficient indications to the contrary.” The executive order says this applies to the federal Title IX laws for education that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex.
It’s a signal that the new administration, as Biden promised to do during his campaign, plans to reinstate Obama administration guidance about transgender student rights. (The Trump administration rescinded that guidance in 2017.) “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports,” Biden’s new executive order states.
The executive order told agency leaders to review guidance documents, regulations, policies, and other “agency actions” to see if they complied with the executive order’s interpretation of federal law.
See some helpful background on the Bostock ruling here.
On the higher education front, Biden’s Education Department extended a pause on collecting interest and principal payments on direct federal loans until at least Sept. 30 of this year.
Biden also revoked a Trump directive that resulted in “harsh and extreme immigration enforcement,” and he called for an immediate halt to the construction of the border wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.