Reason Roundup

Biden Issues At Least 15 Executive Orders and Actions on Day One

Plus: Columbia University neuroscientist defends heroin use, Cuomo plan would still criminalize growing or delivering marijuana, and more...


Since being inaugurated as president late yesterday morning, Joe Biden has been busy dismantling Donald Trump's executive orders. So far, the Biden administration has already undone several Trump-era immigration policies (including Trump's moratorium on immigrants from certain African and/or predominantly Muslim countries), Trump's 1776 Commission, and his ban on diversity training.

Goodbye Travel Bans and Census Changes

In one executive order issued yesterday, Biden revoked Trump's March 2017, September 2017, April 2018, and January 2020 immigration and travel orders and instructed the secretary of state to tell all embassies and consulates "to resume visa processing in a manner consistent with the revocation of the Executive Order and Proclamations specified."

"There is no real doubt that Biden has the power to reverse the travel bans by executive action alone," writes Volokh Conspiracy blogger Ilya Somin. "If you buy the Trump Administration's position on their legal status, they were decisions entirely left to the discretion of the president, which means a new president can repeal them any time he wants to, and for almost any reason….If you believe, as I and other critics do, that the travel bans were unconstitutional, it is even more clear Biden has the authority to repeal them. Indeed, in that event, he would have a legal duty to do so."

In another order, Biden revoked Trump's July 2019 order requiring census takers to collect citizenship info and Trump's July 2020 order excluding undocumented immigrants from congressional apportionment counts based on census data.

'Remain in Mexico' and more policies suspended by DHS

Notice of more immigration policy changes came via the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In a Wednesday memo, Acting DHS Secretary David Pekoske instructed Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to "conduct a review of policies and practices concerning immigration enforcement" and also announced new interim policies, "including a 100-day pause on certain removals."

DHS will still focus on apprehending and deporting people crossing the border illegally and anyone deemed to be a potential threat to national security or public safety, the memo stresses. The 100-day pause on deportations does not apply to immigrants "engaged in [or] suspected of terrorism or espionage, or [who] otherwise poses a danger to the national security," people who were "not physically present in the United States before November 1, 2020," immigrants who "voluntarily agreed to waive any rights to remain in the United States," or anyone else the acting director of ICE determines can be removed.

DHS also announced on Wednesday that it would suspend Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program enrollments. "The Trump administration's controversial 'remain in Mexico' policy requir[ed] asylum seekers trying to enter the U.S. from the southern border to wait in Mexico for American court hearings," notes NPR. "The program has led to roughly 60,000 migrants getting sent back across the border since MPP was first implemented in January 2019."

As of January 21, DHS "will cease adding individuals into the program," the department said in a short statement. "However, current COVID-19 non-essential travel restrictions, both at the border and in the region, remain in place at this time. All current MPP participants should remain where they are, pending further official information from U.S. government officials."

Other Orders Revoked

Reversing these Trump immigration restrictions is all great. Biden also issued a memorandum telling Homeland Security to take action "to preserve and fortify" the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Some of Biden's actions simply undo executive overreach by the Trump administration and can be applauded. In one such order, Biden disbanded Trump's "1776 Commission" on "patriotic education."

Other new Biden orders and memorandums are murkier. In an "Executive Order On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government," Biden revoked Trump's September 2020 order (titled "Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping") banning certain types of diversity training for government employees, contractors, or grant recipientsthen added a new diversity working groups, commissions, and protocols that maybe feel like social justice and keeps government bureaucrats busy but fails to produce meaningful or tangible results.

I haven't had time yet to go through all of Biden's new actions (which you can find here). But it's clear, as Reason's Christian Britschgi commented yesterday, that "if you were hoping President Joe Biden might break from former President Donald Trump's broad view of executive authority," you shouldn't hold your breath.


"I am now entering my fifth year as a regular heroin user," writes Columbia University neuroscience professor Carl Hart. "I do not have a drug-use problem."

Hart's new bookDrug Use for Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear"is not a book promoting drug use, nor is it a 'how to' book," he writes in an author's note at the start. Rather, it relies on "personal anecdotes and scientific research…to dispel drug myths and to illustrate the many potential benefits of responsible drug use."

Hear Hart talk to Reason's Nick Gillespie about it here.



Civil rights groups say no to a new war on terror. The American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International USA, Freedom Network USA, Human Rights Watch, the National Women's Law Center, the Presbyterian Church, The Human Trafficking Legal Center, The Sentencing Project, and 127 other groups are asking Biden and congressional Democrats not to expand domestic terror laws. "We are concerned that a new federal domestic terrorism statute or list would adversely impact civil rights and — as our nation's long and disturbing history of targeting Black Activists, Muslims, Arabs, and movements for social and racial justice has shown — this new authority could be used to expand racial profiling or be wielded to surveil and investigate communities of color and political opponents in the name of national security," they write.

The letter also points out that "The Justice Department (DOJ), including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), has over 50 terrorism-related statutes it can use to investigate and prosecute criminal conduct, including white supremacist violence, as well as dozens of other federal statutes relating to hate crimes, organized crime, and violent crimes. The failure to confront and hold accountable white nationalist violence is not a question of not having appropriate tools to employ, but a failure to use those on hand."

"The letter is necessary because Biden and his administration came into the White House already planning to focus on domestic terrorism, and one possibility the transition team was mulling over is the Confronting Threats of Domestic Terrorism Act, H.R. 4192, which was introduced in 2019 by Rep. Adam Schiff (D–Calif.)," writes Reason's Scott Shackford.


  • John Brennan warns that the Trump "insurgency" is made up of "religious authoritarians, fascists, bigots, racists, nativists, even libertarians."

  • In South Korea, which has the world's lowest birthrate, "pro-natalist policies have attempted to solve the problem by attributing the cause of low birthrates to women and pressuring them to give birth," Ewha Womans University professor Sunhye Kim told NBC News. However, NBC reports, "the public is increasingly pushing back against such policies, she said."