The Beginning of the Biden-Harris Term: A Review of Policy & Executive Orders

The Beginning of the Biden-Harris Term: A Review of Policy & Executive Orders

By Parth Deshmukh

In just over two weeks in office, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have issued nearly fifty executive orders,[1] actions and memoranda alike in the realms of immigration, COVID-19, environment, health care, economy, and equity.[2] About 16 orders directly reverse policies of the former administration.[3]

The immigration policy changes are geared to dismantle ex-President, Donald Trump’s “America First Immigration Agenda.”[4] These executive orders are essentially to the effect of: (1) creating a task force to reunite the 5,500 families separated by the US-Mexico border under Trump’s family-separation policy;[5] (2) addressing the root causes of migration by supporting the Central American immigration system and creating safer alternate routes to move to the United States;[6] (3) reviewing the legal immigration system to promote immigrant integration and inclusion by easing access to Medicaid, food, and housing.[7] The specifics of some orders are yet to be ironed out, and implementation will likely not be without hurdles. Last week for example, a federal judge temporarily blocked President Biden’s 100-day pause on deportations.[8]

Biden has also halted construction of the US-Mexico border wall, and cancelled the restrictions on U.S. entry for passport holders of Muslim nations.[9] Majority of the executive orders though are coronavirus-related.[10] Significantly, an order has reinstated travel restrictions for individuals travelling to the U.S. from Europe, a policy many other countries had implemented since the start of the pandemic.[11] Another stops the U.S.’s withdrawal from the World Health Organization, and makes Dr. Fauci the head of the delegation to the WHO.[12] Multiple efforts focus on organizing vaccination and testing facilities.[13]

After the U.S. became the only nation to ever have withdrawn from the Paris Climate Accord late last year, President Biden has re-joined it.[14] After cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline permit,[15] Biden has directed agencies to review and reverse over 100 Trump environmental orders.[16] In reaffirming the U.S.’s commitment to renewable energy, orders were issued to procure carbon-free energy and electric vehicles, spur commercialization of clean energy technologies, accelerate clean energy generation and transmission projects and ensure that disadvantaged communities get a fair share of the ensuing economic and environmental benefits.[17]

With 28 executive orders issued already at the time of writing this post, the Biden-Harris administration is only second to President Franklin Roosevelt in issuing the largest number of executive orders within their first month in office.[18] While the actions of the new administration are arguably beneficial from the perspective of geopolitical diplomacy and are largely in line with the best practices of environmental conservation, implementation will likely continue to be a challenge as companies and individuals struggle with unwinding changes made in the Trump era.



[1] An executive order is a signed directive from the President that manages operations of the federal government. It has the force of law, much like regulations issued by federal agencies, and is codified under Title 3 of the Code of Federal Regulations. What is an Executive Order?, American Bar Association (Jan. 25, 2021),

[2] See Kate Sullivan et al., Here Are the Executive Actions Biden Has Signed so Far, CNN (Feb. 2, 2021),

[3] Id.

[4] Michael D. Shear & Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Biden Issues Orders to Dismantle Trump’s ‘America First’ Immigration Agenda, N.Y. Times (Feb. 2, 2021),

[5] See Michelle Hackman & Tarini Parti, Biden Sets Up Task Force to Reunite Families Separated at the Border, Wall Street J. (Feb. 2, 2021),

[6] Id.

[7] See Sullivan et al., supra note 2.

[8] Priscilla Alvarez, Judge Likely to Extend Hold on Biden’s Deportation Pause Until Late February, CNN (Jan. 29, 2021),

[9] Sullivan et al., supra note 2.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] See id.

[14] Emma Newburger, President Joe Biden Rejoins the Paris Climate Accord in First Move to Tackle Global Warming, CNBC (Jan. 20, 2021),

[15] Ben Lefebvre & Lauren Gardner, Biden Kills Keystone XL Permit, Again, Politico (Jan. 20, 2021),

[16] See Sullivan et al., supra note 2.

[17] Jeff St. John, Biden Executive Orders Set Broad Federal Role in Clean Energy and Climate Change Mitigation, Green Tech Media (Jan. 27, 2021),

[18] Tamara Keith, With 28 Executive Orders Signed, President Biden is off to a Record Start, NPR (Feb. 3, 2021),