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Vice President Harris looks on as President Biden signs executive orders related to his racial equity agenda. Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

President Biden is making a down payment on racial equity in a series of executive orders dealing with everything from private prisons to housing discrimination, treatment of Asian Americans and relations with indigenous tribes.

The big picture: Police reform and voting rights legislation will take time to pass in Congress. But with the stroke of his pen, one week into the job, Biden is taking steps within his power as he seeks to change the tone on racial justice from the Trump administration.

  1. Order #1: Directs the Justice Department not to renew contracts with private prisons. (This doesn’t apply to private prisons for immigration enforcement.)
  2. Order #2: Directs the Department of Housing and Urban Development to examine how previous administrations undermined fair housing policies and laws.
  3. Order #3: Calls for “re-establishing federal respect for tribal sovereignty” following years of tension between tribal governments and former President Trump.
  4. Order #4: Directs the Department of Health and Human Services to examine discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

What they're saying: “Following four years of the Trump administration turning a blind eye to racial inequity and injustice at every turn, we are pleased that this new administration is centering its focus around issues impacting the lives and reality faced by people of color in this country," said Dorian Spence of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

  • Alicia Garza of Black to the Future Action Fund said the orders "are a floor to set and not the ceiling."
  • “It is encouraging to see a president promoting racial equity, instead of inciting racism,” said Robert McCaw of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The other side: Day 1 Alliance, a trade association of private prisons, denounced the executive order on private prisons and said they have little to do with mass incarceration.

  • "The vast majority of contractor-operated facilities house criminal aliens who will be deported upon completion of their sentences, under a program created by Congress in the 1990s," the group said.

Flashback: Trump praised figures such as Robert E. Lee and former President Jackson to the dismay of many Black and Native Americans. He also explained his halting of diversity training in federal agencies, saying that “they were teaching people to hate our country."

The bottom line: Racial justice advocates praised Biden's executive orders but expect him to do more to aggressively tackle poverty, voting rights and police shootings of people of color.

  • "The order signed today is an important first step toward acknowledging the harm that has been caused and taking actions to repair it," said David Fathi, director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project.
  • "President Biden has an obligation to do more, especially given his history and promises."

Go deeper

Black Lives Matter movement nominated for 2021 Nobel Peace Prize

Protestors take part in a Black Lives Matter march outside the Parliament building in Oslo, Norway in solidarity with U.S. protests over the death of George Floyd. Photo by Stian Lysberg Solum/AFP via Getty Images

The Black Lives Matter movement has been nominated for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for compelling countries around the world to address systemic racism.

Why it matters: The BLM movement launched in 2013 following George Zimmerman's acquittal for shooting Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black teenager. The case kickstarted the international movement to address the controversial deaths of Black people, particularly at the hands of police.

Scoop: Stephanie Murphy announcing challenge to Marco Rubio

Rep. Stephanie Murphy. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy is planning to announce a campaign for the U.S. Senate in Florida against Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in early June, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Murphy is a proven fundraiser. Jumping in now would give her an early start to build her case for the Democratic nomination and potentially force Rubio and allied GOP groups to spend heavily to retain a seat in a state that’s trending Republican.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Inside the GOP's infrastructure strategy

Sen. Roger Wicker. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Top Republican senators are hoping the White House will make some sort of counteroffer to their infrastructure proposal when they meet with President Biden on Thursday, lawmakers and their aides tell Axios.

Why it matters: This is a sign of how serious the negotiations are, they say. In advance of the meeting, some of the senators are already publicly signaling the areas in which they have flexibility.