Joe Biden Will Sign Four Executive Orders on Racial Equity—Here's What They Do

President Joe Biden will sign four more executive orders Tuesday targeting racial equity issues, as he continues to push his agenda during his first week in office through executive actions.

"We're treating racial equity as a set of values and tools," a senior administration official told Newsweek and other reporters in a preview of the orders Biden will sign later in the afternoon. "That's never been done before."

Shortly after being sworn into office last Wednesday, Biden fired off more than two dozen executive directives—many of them aimed at addressing the coronavirus pandemic or undoing actions that his predecessor, Donald Trump, had taken in office.

"Building a more equitable economy is essential if Americans are going to compete and thrive," Biden's Domestic Policy Council director Susan Rice told reporters Tuesday during a press briefing.

Tuesday's orders address fair housing policies, prison reform, tribal sovereignty and xenophobia against Asian people, which has been on the rise amid the ongoing pandemic. Trump repeatedly referred to the novel coronavirus as "the China virus," despite criticism that it could stoke hatred.

Because they are executive actions, the measures could be overturned in future administrations, unless Congress also takes legislative action to codify them.

Here's what the directives to be signed today will do:

Advance Fair Housing

Biden will sign an executive memorandum that will acknowledge how the
federal government advanced racially discriminating housing policies over the years.

"We have to acknowledge the role that the federal government has had," said the senior official who spoke to Newsweek.

The order will direct the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to review past policies and take steps necessary to fully implement the Fair Housing Act.

Reform the Incarceration System to Reduce the Use of Private Prisons

Biden has said he wants to reduce mass incarceration.

"That starts with ending the federal government's reliance on private prisons," the senior official said.

Biden's executive order will direct the attorney general not to renew Department of Justice contracts with privately-operated prisons.

"They're proven to be less safe for correctional officers and for prisons," Rice said during Tuesday's briefing.

The senior official wasn't sure how much money the federal government could save by canceling the contracts.

"That was not the motivating factor," the official said. "Private prisons not only encourage profiteering off human lives, but more importantly have been shown to be subpar in terms of safety and security."

Reaffirm the Federal Government's Commitment to Tribal Sovereignty and Consultation

Biden will sign an executive order that reaffirms federal agencies will regularly engage in consultation with tribal governments, with an eye on advancing racial justice for Native American communities.

Biden has nominated former U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland to be the first Native American to run the Department of Interior, signaling an effort to address tribal concerns.

Combat Xenophobia Against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

Biden will sign a presidential memorandum acknowledging the harm that anti-Asian bias and discrimination has had on the country. It also will establish a Biden administration policy of condemning and denouncing such discrimination.

It's a near direct rebuke of the previous administration's stance of defending Trump and key members of his administration calling COVID-19 the "China virus" and "Wuhan virus."

"That's in part what this is about," the senior official said.

Joe Biden
U.S. President Joe Biden signs an executive order related to American manufacturing in the South Court Auditorium of the White House complex on January 25, 2021 in Washington, D.C. President Biden signed an executive order aimed at boosting American manufacturing and strengthening the federal government's Buy American rules. Drew Angerer/Getty