The Biden administration on Tuesday rolled out a series of presidential actions on racial justice, including multiple actions that re-established policies of the Obama administration that were subsequently done away with by President Donald Trump.
“We’ll hold the federal government accountable for advancing equity for families across America,” White House Domestic Policy Council Director Susan Rice told reporters Tuesday.
An Obama-era rule called “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing,” a target of Trump’s that the former president used to exploit racist stereotypes about the suburbs, took top billing.
The Obama effort requires that communities take steps to identify and end racial discrimination in housing. But Trump did away with the rule and frequently referred to his election-year action as “saving the suburbs.”
The same Biden order would bolster the Disparate Impact rule, another aspect of the Fair Housing Act that defines discriminatory policies as those that have a disparate impact on a certain group.
A second executive order announced Wednesday will return to the Obama-era policy of phasing out federal government contracts with private prisons. The Trump administration reversed the policy within a month of Trump taking office.
The Biden action is hardly an immediate end to the contractual relationships with private prisons, but it’s a significant step: “The Order directs the Attorney General not to renew Department of Justice contracts with privately operated criminal detention facilities,” according to White House fact sheet.
Rice said Tuesday that the order would only apply to DOJ-run facilities, not those run by other federal agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “It’s silent on what may or may not transpire with ICE facilities,” she said.
A third order Tuesday seeks to reestablish “federal respect for Tribal sovereignty” — defined as “the commitment of all federal agencies to engage in regular, robust,
and meaningful consultation with Tribal governments” — which the Biden administration argues was damaged in part by the slow-walking of COVID-19 assistance to tribal governments.
The final order announced Tuesday directs federal agencies to take steps to mitigate xenophobia against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, in part by tasking the Department of Health and Human Services to produce best practices on eliminating anti-Asian bias in the government’s COVID-19 response.
The orders come in the shadow of the attack on the Capitol building earlier this month, which featured participation from far-right groups and explicit white nationalist and neo-Nazi actors. Asked about the attack Tuesday, Rice pointed to a review Biden has ordered the intelligence community to complete of domestic violent extremism.
“It’s been plain for all Americans, on their television sets, just how serious a problem we face from white nationalists and white supremacists who have demonstrated willingness to resort to violence in some instances,” Rice said.
This post has been updated.