Biden Signs 17 Executive Orders on First Day in Office >>

January 21st, 2021

Biden Signs 17 Executive Orders on First Day in Office

On his first day in office, President Biden signed 17 executive orders touching on a variety of pressing national issues. Below is a summary of those executive orders. White House press secretary Jen Psaki also noted that “In the coming days and weeks we will be announcing additional executive actions that confront these challenges and deliver on the President-elect’s promises to the American people, including revoking the ban on military service by transgender Americans, and reversing the Mexico City policy.”


  • Start a “100 Days Masking Challenge.” The order calls for a nationwide face mask and social distancing mandate in federal buildings, on federal lands, and by federal employees and contractors.
  • Restructure federal government coordination to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Biden White House is bringing back an Obama-era position called the “Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense,” which was organized with additional staff within the National Security Council after the 2014 Ebola epidemic. This directorate office was dispersed into other roles during the Trump administration, but Biden and his campaign advisers argued the move decreased the preparedness of the federal government for the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Biden will also formally implement a “response coordinator” who will report to the president on vaccine, testing and personal protective equipment production, supply, and distribution. Mr. Biden has appointed Jeff Zients, who has been overseeing Mr. Biden’s COVID-19 team for the presidential transition.
  • Rejoin the World Health Organization (WHO). The Trump administration was in the process of leaving at the end of his term. Mr. Biden is also looking to re-establish the U.S. as an active leader at the WHO.

Financial Relief for Americans

  • Extend eviction and foreclosure moratoriums. Biden has tasked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to re-implement and extend the already defunct moratorium until at least March 31. Biden has also directed the Departments of Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, and Veterans Affairs to extend the foreclosure moratoriums for their federally backed mortgages.
  • Continue “pause” on student loan payments until September 30. The Biden advisers also note the President still supports his campaign pledge to cancel $10,000 of student loans, but this will take time as it has to go through Congress.


  • Rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. This will take 30 days to go into effect.
  • End Keystone XL pipeline and revoke oil and gas development at national wildlife monuments. The Biden administration will discard or redo more than 100 “harmful” presidential proclamations, memoranda, or permits signed by the Trump administration that the new administration views as detrimental to the environment. Mr. Biden also will reverse the 2020 decision by the Trump administration to allow land development at the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah and at the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine national monuments in New England, which were set aside for wildlife protection by former President Obama in 2016. Other changes include directing agencies to “consider revising vehicle fuel economic and emissions standards” and placing federal working groups to deal with greenhouse gases, according to an outline of the executive orders.

Human rights

  • Actions to advance racial equity through the federal government. Every federal agency will review equity in their programs and actions. For example, with this executive action, the Office of Management and Budget will analyze if federal money is equitably distributed in communities of color and other places of need. Trump’s “harmful” 1776 Commission, the 18-member board he formulated in September, will be disbanded.
  • Count non-citizens in U.S. Census again. This reverses President Trump’s order in July 2020 to not count undocumented Americans, which would impact the allocation of federal funds and Congressional representation.
  • Strengthen workplace discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. At agencies, this broadens the federal protections against sex discrimination to include LGBTQ Americans.


  • Defend “Dreamers” program for undocumented young Americans. Mr. Biden calls on Congress to grant permanent status and a path to citizenship to Dreamers — almost a million undocumented young people who were brought to the country as children and shielded from deportation by President Obama. The Trump administration challenged the law but the Supreme Court upheld it.
  • End so-called “Muslim travel ban.” The 2017 order restricted travel and immigration to the U.S. from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen, before adding Eritrea, Nigeria, Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan, and Tanzania in 2020. The State Department is also instructed to restart visa applications for these countries.
  • Change Trump’s arrest priorities for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This executive order repeals the changes Mr. Trump made in the first week of his presidency in 2017 to make interior immigration enforcement much stricter.
  • Stop border wall construction. Mr. Biden will end the national emergency declaration cited by the Trump administration to divert money to the building of the southern wall.
  • Keep protections for a group of Liberians in the country. Liberians who have been in the United States for many years will be able to remain longer. Their “deferred enforcement departure” will be extended an additional year, until June 30, 2022. President Trump briefly considered ending this deferment before ultimately extending the program.


  • Freezing last-minute Trump administration regulatory actions. Mr. Biden issued a freeze on all new regulations put in motion by his predecessor to give his administration time to evaluate which ones it wants to move forward. The memorandum is aimed at preventing so-called midnight regulations, policies pushed through by a lame-duck president unconstrained by electoral considerations.


  • Executive Branch ethics doctrine. Mr. Biden wants every executive branch appointee to sign an ethics pledge. The pledge also demands federal employees promise “to uphold the independence of the Department of Justice,” the executive order outline states.

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