WASHINGTON – President Biden signed an executive order on Tuesday to terminate the Department of Justice’s contracts with private prisons and step up government enforcement of a law to combat discrimination in the housing market. This is part of the new government’s continued focus on racial justice.
Mr Biden also signed orders making it a federal government policy to “condemn and denounce” discrimination and relations between Americans from Asia and the Pacific, who have been harassed from China to the US since the coronavirus pandemic spread US to strengthen government and Indian tribes.
The steps are incremental parts of Mr Biden’s broader pursuit of racial justice – an initiative that is expected to be a centerpiece of his administration, and that follows an ordinance last week instructing federal agencies to review policies to combat systemic racism. Government efforts are led by Susan E. Rice, who heads the Home Affairs Council.
“I don’t promise we can end it tomorrow, but I promise you we will keep making progress to eradicate systemic racism,” Biden said before signing the orders. He added that “every branch of the White House and federal government will be part of this effort”.
The orders are an escalating rejection of President Donald J. Trump’s policies and attitudes toward racial relations. In separate executive orders, Mr Biden last week lifted a Trump administration’s ban on diversity training in federal agencies and disbanded a Trump-created historical commission that issued a report aimed at promoting the nation’s founders who were slave-owners to give a more positive effect.
On a conference call with reporters, a senior White House official described the Trump administration’s “hideous” Muslim ban, saying that certain minority groups had been treated with “a profound level of disrespect for political leaders and the White House.”
During a press conference on Tuesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki accused the Trump administration of exacerbating racial inequalities over health. “The previous administration’s actions to destroy the Affordable Care Act in every way did not help any American, and it certainly did not help the color communities,” she said.
During the same briefing, Ms. Rice made it clear that the administration was moving in a new direction, highlighting these differences rather than ignoring them – and that appointing a woman of color to oversee the initiative was part of that approach.
“Americans of color are infected and are more likely to die from Covid,” she said, noting that “40 percent of black-owned businesses were forced too close forever during the Covid crisis.”
A descendant of immigrants from Jamaica, Ms. Rice called herself the living embodiment of the American dream and stated that “investing in equity is good for economic growth” and “creates jobs for all Americans”.
The new Washington
Jan. 26, 2021, 8:40 p.m. ET
One of the orders signed on Tuesday called on the Justice Department not to renew contracts with private prisons and reverted to policies first adopted in the Obama administration when Mr Biden was Vice President and which Mr Trump reversed.
The order does not end all government contracts with private prisons – administrative officials confirmed it would not apply to other agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement that are contracting private companies to detain thousands of undocumented immigrants.
“There is broad consensus that our current system of mass detention places significant costs and hardships on our society and our communities and does not make us safer,” the regulation says. “To reduce incarceration rates, we need to reduce for-profit incarceration incentives by phasing out the federal government’s dependence on privately operated prisons.”
The Housing Ordinance instructs the Department of Housing and Urban Development to tighten the enforcement of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which aims to discriminate against home purchases. This includes asking the department to review the actions taken under Mr Trump that have sought to weaken some of that enforcement. Last year, as part of Trump’s attempted appeals to suburban white voters, the department rolled back an Obama-era program aimed at combating segregation in housing.
“This represents a clear change of direction that will get us back on track to comply with fair housing law,” said Julián Castro, who served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Barack Obama. “It’s a very strong signal that it’s a new day when it comes to fair living and that HUD will be aggressive again. In some ways, this is the easy part, but it’s a powerful first step. “
Mr Castro said the housing division is still lagging behind in the number of staff needed to enforce fair housing law and that nonprofit groups across the country dealing with fair housing issues have federal funding and others Resources should be preserved. Given the fact that the action took place on the sixth day of the new administration, this is a “clear rejection of Trump’s scare tactics” about low-income apartments invading white suburbs.
Mr. Biden’s jail warrant was lauded by the American Federation of Government Employees Prison Officials Council, which represents 30,000 federal prison workers across the country, and groups working to reduce the mass incarceration of blacks and other Americans.
“Eliminating the use of for-profit prisons is only a first step,” said Holly Harris, executive director of Justice Action Network, a non-partisan criminal justice organization – but a move with implications beyond the low percentage of federal prisoners held in private prisons. “Everyone misses the fact that they are a major obstacle to reform because they give millions to elected officials who write our criminal law.”
Ms. Harris, who said she was a Republican, added that she “showed a little mercy to the Democratic government and welcomed this first step.”