Above photo: U.S. President Joe Biden prepares to sign a series of executive orders at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office just hours after his inauguration. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.
As the President settles in his new home, everyday people are wondering if they’ll avoid being kicked out of theirs.
On January 20, 2021, President Biden signed a series of executive orders that fell short of addressing two major crises facing jobless, poor, immigrants and working people: the threat of a wave of mass evictions and the threats of family separation by an emboldened rogue ICE agency. Simply put: Biden’s first executive orders did not cancel the rent debt and only delivered a partial moratorium on deportations.
As the President settles in his new home, everyday people are wondering if they’ll avoid being kicked out of theirs. Millions of renters, homeowners and undocumented immigrants are teetering on the edge of being evicted, foreclosed off their homes or being deported from the country they call home too. Blanket moratoriums on evictions and deportations are two urgent actions that the President can take now. These two actions are not just terribly necessary for our communities, but they are crucial in addressing the devastating public health crisis ravaging our country.
President Biden’s executive actions are setting the tone for the administration’s priorities in the first 100 days, but some of these orders have loopholes that will continue to leave the most impacted by the pandemic and Trump’s policies to fend for themselves. The current Center for Disease Control (CDC) moratorium has not been effective in ending all evictions for people who have been violently removed from their homes at the hands of local law enforcement. To date, about 14 million households are facing eviction, and Biden’s executive order to address the housing crisis does very little to protect tenants and alleviate rent debt. Since the start of the pandemic, about 12 million renters have accrued an average of $5,000 in rent or mortgage debt. The CDC moratorium, as noted by health experts, has also failed to protect public health. When people are evicted, they can’t quarantine and are at higher risk of congregating in overcrowded housing spaces — both recipes for imminent spread. The only way to avoid massive amounts of evictions is to enact an enhanced moratorium — not just to expand it — to end all evictions, stop utility shut-offs and work with Congress, state and local governments to suspend rent and mortgage debt for the duration of the pandemic.
In addition to evictions, there are immigrant families and entire communities facing the threat of deportation and family separation at the hands of a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agency that has not been held entirely accountable for horrifying acts against immigrant children and civil rights violations under Trump. President Biden ran on a platform of healing the country, but for people impacted by the harmful immigration enforcement of the last four years, there cannot be healing without accountability and there cannot be reconciliation without investigation. DHS’s January 20 memo orders a review of the agency’s activities under Trump and opens the gate for true accountability. This is a step in the right direction to address DHS’s harmful actions under the last administration. But by pausing only certain removals for the next 100 days, as stated in the latest DHS memorandum, President Biden’s executive actions on immigration fall short of enhancing protections for all immigrants.
Instructing Congress to take on the task of delivering an immigration bill seems like a good first step, but it is likely to be delayed by an opposition made up of Republicans and moderate Democrats. Whatever Congress delivers on immigration will still fall short of protecting people from deportation. A blanket moratorium on immigration enforcement and a complete overhaul of all new arrests and transfers is the necessary action demanded by immigrant communities and immigration advocates that delivered Biden control of the Senate in the heated Georgia run-off elections.
We now know tone-deaf solutions by the previous administration failed to safeguard people’s lives, fostering millions of deaths due to COVID, exponentially increasing the amount of unemployed workers and devastating civil rights in this country. Poor people, working class people of color and immigrant communities were being killed, criminalized, detained and deported while also being asked to show up to work every day to care, serve and continue to build the country.
To truly undo Trumpism in America, President Biden must be bold in his executive actions and deliver the down payment communities desperately need to recover from the global pandemic and Trump’s regressive policies.