President Joe Biden signs an executive order for transgender people to do military service when he meets with new Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, USA on January 25, 2021.
Kevin Lemarque | Reuters
President Joe Biden on Tuesday ordered his Department of Justice not to renew its private prison contracts, one of several new planks on Biden's broad agenda for racial justice.
Biden signed four more executive acts after setting up his Racial Justice Plan at the White House. The measures are aimed at tackling discriminatory housing practices, reforming the prison system, respecting the sovereignty of tribal governments, and combating xenophobia against Asian Americans, especially in the face of the Covid pandemic.
"I ran for president because I believe we are in a battle for the soul of this nation," Biden said before signing the actions. "And the simple truth is that as long as systemic racism is allowed to persist, our souls will be troubled."
"I firmly believe that the nation is ready to change, but the government must change too," he said.
The actions are just the latest in a comprehensive flex of the presidential powers in the first week. According to a preview from senior administrative officials, Biden signed the following Tuesday afternoon:
An executive order directing Biden's attorney general not to renew the DOJ's contracts with privately operated penal institutions. A presidential memorandum instructing the Department of Housing and Urban Development to investigate the impact of the Trump administration's regulatory actions that "undermine fair housing policies and laws." Based on this analysis, the memo also instructs the HUD to take steps to fully implement the requirements of the Fair Housing Act. An executive order urging federal agencies to work with tribal governments on a regular and meaningful basis and an executive memorandum directing the Department of Health and Human Services and Bidens The Covid Health Equity Task Force should publish best practice promotion as part of its Covid response efforts Consider "cultural literacy" and sensitivity to Asian Americans and Pacific islanders. The memo also instructs the DOJ to work with these communities to prevent hate crimes and harassment against them.
"For too many American families, systemic racism and inequality in our economies, laws and institutions have still put the American dream way out of reach," said domestic affairs adviser Susan Rice at a press conference prior to Biden's speech and signing.
"These are desperate times for so many Americans, and all Americans urgently need federal action to help us overcome this moment," said Rice.
"Building a fairer economy is essential if Americans are to compete and thrive in the 21st century."
Rice noted in the briefing that Biden's order to the DOJ does not apply to private prison contracts with other agencies such as the U.S. Immigration and Customs Service ICE.
The order says "nothing about what may or may not happen to ICE facilities," she said, stressing that the recent measures are "just the beginning" of the government's racist justice push.
Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice speaks during the daily briefing in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC on January 26, 2021.
Almond Ngan | AFP | Getty Images
Biden placed issues of racial justice at the center of his winning campaign against former President Donald Trump. Shortly after taking office, Biden signed an executive order setting his government's focus on social justice and repealing some of his predecessor's policies.
In particular, the January 20 action overturned Trump's September order to restrict federal entrepreneurs' ability to deliver training on diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Biden also ended the Trump administration's "1776 Commission" which, in the final days of Trump's tenure, produced a report that was extremely critical of progressive ideologies.
Biden's command charged the Rice-headed Home Affairs Council with coordinating "efforts to embed principles, strategies, and approaches of justice throughout the federal government."
"This includes efforts to remove and provide equal access to systemic barriers to opportunity and benefit, identify communities that have been underserved by the federal government, and develop strategies to advance equity for those communities," it said in this regulation.
Biden is expected to return to the State Dining Room at 4:45 p.m., where he will speak about his government's efforts to contain the Covid pandemic.
– CNBC's Christian Nunley contributed to this report.