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Biden to order DOJ to end private prison contracts as part of racial equity push

President Joe Biden signs an exectutive order for transgender people to serve in military as he meets with new U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 25, 2021.

Kevin Lemarque | Reuters

President Joe Biden on Tuesday will order his Department of Justice not to renew its contracts with private prisons, one of multiple new planks of Biden’s broad-focused racial justice agenda.

Biden is poised to sign four additional executive actions after laying out his racial equity plan at the White House at 2 p.m. ET, according to his press schedule. Vice President Kamala Harris will also attend the event.

The actions are aimed at combating discriminatory housing practices, reforming the prison system, respecting sovereignty of Tribal governments and fighting xenophobia against Asian Americans, especially in light of the Covid pandemic.

The actions are only the latest in a sweeping first-week flex of presidential powers. Here’s what Biden will sign Tuesday afternoon, according to a preview provided by senior administration officials:

  • An executive order directing Biden’s attorney general not to renew DOJ contracts with privately operated criminal detention facilities
  • A presidential memorandum directing the Department of Housing and Urban Development to examine the effects of the Trump administration’s regulatory actions that “undermined fair housing policies and laws.” Based on that analysis, the memo also directs HUD to take steps to fully implement the requirements of the Fair Housing Act.
  • An executive order pushing federal agencies to regularly and meaningfully engage with Tribal governments
  • And an executive memorandum directing the Health and Human Services Department and Biden’s Covid health equity task force to consider issuing best practices for advancing “cultural competency” and sensitivity toward Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders as part of its Covid response efforts. The memo also directs the DOJ to partner with those communities to prevent hate crimes and harassment against them.

The president’s speech and signings will be preceded by a press briefing at 12:30 p.m., where domestic policy advisor Susan Rice is scheduled to appear alongside White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

“America has never lived up to its founding promise of equality for all, but we’ve never stopped trying,” Biden said Tuesday morning in a tweet from the president’s official Twitter account.

“Today, I’ll take action to advance racial equity and push us closer to that more perfect union we’ve always strived to be.”

The White House said in a separate tweet that the new actions will “advance racial equity and support communities of color and other underserved communities.”

Biden put racial justice issues at the center of his winning campaign against former President Donald Trump. Shortly after being sworn into office, Biden signed an executive order that established his administration’s social-justice focus and revoked some of his predecessor’s policies.

Specifically, the Jan. 20 action canceled Trump’s order limiting federal contractors’ ability to hold workplace diversity and inclusion trainings, which was signed in September.

Biden also ended the Trump administration’s “1776 Commission,” which produced a report highly critical of progressive ideologies in the final days of Trump’s term.

Biden’s order put the Domestic Policy Council, led by Rice, in charge of coordinating “efforts to embed equity principles, policies, and approaches across the Federal Government.”

“This will include efforts to remove systemic barriers to and provide equal access to opportunities and benefits, identify communities the Federal Government has underserved, and develop policies designed to advance equity for those communities,” that order said.

Biden is scheduled to return to the State Dining Room at 4:45 p.m., when he will speak about his administration’s efforts to contain the Covid pandemic.

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