Photo by Kate Flock/Bloomberg.

According to NPR, during President Joe Biden’s first two weeks in office, he signed 28 executive orders. He has since surpassed this number, putting him ahead of Franklin D. Roosevelt as the president who has signed the most executive orders during their first month in office.

A lot of these orders are related to key issues he has been adressing since he was on the campaign trail, like the environment, immigration, financial assistance and the federal COVID response.

There has been some media coverage on the larger ones, but with so many orders, it can be hard to keep up. For this reason, I drew up questions and asked two Hudson County residents what they think about them, to try and get their opinions on whether Biden has been an effective president so far, and where we can go from here.

Who Are They?

Cristian Ayala is a 29-year-old resident of North Bergen, originally from Honduras. He came here as a child, and said that he has a pretty unfavorable view of politics. He believes that the wealthy elite have too much influence, and because of it, politics has been corrupted.

In his view, any gains for the “little guy” are just concessions so that the public doesn’t get too restless while we continue to be exploited by corporations and politicians alike.

Adrian Patterson, who goes by AJ, lives in the Jersey City Heights, and is 24-years-old. He has Jamaican roots, and also came to the United States in his childhood.

Patterson said that he is in the process of signing up for military service, but generally feels jaded with American two-party politics.

He feels like the parties always stop each other from doing anything really meaningful, and the human element of politics is often lost in the idealogical battles between members of both parties.

Background: What Do They Know About Biden and the Executive Orders?

Me: “So, first, I have to ask. Have you been keeping up with the Biden presidency so far? Do you know about any of the executive orders he’s been pushing through?”

Cristian: “No, I really haven’t. I heard he was working on getting the next stimulus check through but that’s about it.”

AJ: “No, not really. I know he’s been working a lot on the pandemic, and he’s working on some social issues too like LGBT rights, but I haven’t really heard of anything too specific.”

Environment

Me: “One of the key focuses of Biden’s campaign was climate change and the environment. Within his first two weeks, Biden already signed a few executive orders, including one to stop the building of the Keystone XL Pipeline, and a mandate for us to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. First off, do you know what these are? And if so, are they important to you?”

Cristian: “Yeah, for sure. Aside from the obvious disrespect for tribal lands, a big pipeline would’ve had obvious environmental consequences, and we need to move away from these old kinds of fuel-sources if we want the planet to survive. The Paris Agreement is good too, climate change will affect everyone on the planet, so everyone needs to be involved, an international deal is a big part of that.”

AJ: “So I’ve heard of the Keystone Pipeline, but not too much of the Paris agreement. I think it’s where a bunch of countries want to work to stop climate change, but I’m not sure how they plan to do it. Either way, I definitely think they’re important, they affect future generations, and we’re already seeing some of the crazy effects of climate change. We need to work on it right now, not later.”

Me: “Do you think this was the right time to do it? Or was there more pressing issues he should’ve taken care of first. Is this important to work on in the first month of his presidency?”

Cristian: “I don’t think so. I think these things could’ve waited until after the pandemic. There’s less people at work, less cars on the road. Now, come to think of it, I guess this was a good time for making changes in general, but I feel like its so unimportant compared to some of the other things we’re facing up-close right now.”

AJ: “Yeah, actually. I think it’s great the he’s addressing them right now because these are global issues that are only getting worse. Maybe they could have waited a bit, but I’m sure the president has stacks and stacks of papers to go through, he needs to move forward on his agenda however he can.”

Immigration

Me: “So, Joe Biden has also passed executive orders working to reinstate DACA, a program that gave temporary resident status to immigrants who came here as small children, and to repeal the “public charge” law that says a person can’t become a citizen if they might end up being a “burden” to Americans by being on foodstamps or welfare, or other government assistance. Do you agree with these moves?”

“Should people who came here as kids be protected against deportation and have a shot at citizenship? What about the sentiment that poor or uneducated immigrants should have the right to become Americans? Is it something you believe in, or do you think it’d have some negative effects for our country?”

A rally in support of DACA, in which attendees held signs reading “Home is Here” and “Here to Stay” (Photo by Sandy Huffaker / AFP)

Cristian: “I’m actually really happy about these. My family came over with money, and before the current crisis of gangs and violence in my country so I haven’t had to deal with a lot of the barriers newer immigrants do, but I feel for them. America kinda created these problems too; MS13 started out as an American prison gang who they basically imported to my country by deporting their prisoners. These kids would never have had to come if they weren’t in danger back home, the least this country can do is protect them.”

“Also, I’m not sure if just anyone should be able to get citizenship, I think there should be some standards for sure, but I don’t think it should be limited based on income or country of origin at all. A lot of my friends from Union City where I grew up are on DACA, and they all go to college or have careers, I remember they were terrified when Trump repealed it.”

AJ: “This country was founded on immigrants, and not a lot of them were already rich when they came here. Policies like that, I personally feel are just discrimination. Plenty of Americans are on food stamps, and immigrants already pay taxes, but they can’t take advantage of their own taxes as much as citizens can. As far as DACA and the dreamers? Kids aren’t in control of anything, what else are they supposed to do if they can’t live here? I immigrated from Jamaica, but I grew up in Jersey City. I don’t know what I’d do if I was told I couldn’t live here anymore, I may have been born there, but this is my home.

Pandemic Assistance

Me: “Something that’s been on a lot of peoples’ minds is the economy post-COVID. Since the beginning, people have been calling for financial and social assistance because many jobs were lost, and for those that can still work there’s things like childcare that still need to be taken care of. So far, Biden has passed executive orders to quicken the process of bringing the next stimulus checks, freeze student loan collections, pause evictions and foreclosures, and increase food assistance. Do you think these are some of the things that are needed right now?”

Cristian: “I do, I would’ve liked to see a expansion of unemployment benefits up there though. Otherwise, I think this is a really good set of strategies to keep us afloat while we wait out the end of this pandemic. Really, we’re going to need much more to come back from this, but the crisis is still going on and so for now it’s a matter of helping keep people afloat.”

A line at a food bank in Los Angeles during the Coronavirus pandemic
(Lucy Nicholson/Reuters )

AJ: “I feel like, as much as these things are needed right now by a lot of people, they’re like band-aid solutions to the bigger economic problems. His actions could end up having unintended consequences. Packages like this require a lot of money, and it has to come from somewhere. I think something like creating better jobs and helping people to get them is so much more impactful in the long-term than handing out money.”

Pandemic Response

Me: “Ok, so finally, the biggest issue on everybody’s mind is COVID. Thankfully, we already have the vaccine, but it’s going to take time to roll out. America has struggled with providing enough tests for people, and the same with vaccines, so Biden recently passed a bill intended to increase our capacity to provide these for patients. He also passed executive orders to better increase healthcare access, and to reaffirm our dedication to following the best available science and up-to-date research. He, along with many others, claims that Trump ignored the science, which led to thousands of unnecessary deaths.”

“Do you think these are jobs for the Fed to be involved in? Is pushing strong executive orders right away, the right way to build a COVID response? And what else do you wish he’d do?”

Cristian: “In normal times, I don’t think so, but these aren’t normal times. I’m definitely worried about letting the federal government get some control over healthcare and public science, but in this situation I can’t think of a better option. Nobody would let him get anything done if he wasn’t doing them by exectuive order, so I think this is the best way to do it right now. People are still dying. I wish he’d mandate federally that essential workers, like me at restaurants and other places of business, could get quick access to the vaccine, and discounts would be nice too, because we kept the country running this last year.”

AJ: “I think it’s a good thing he’s getting in and getting his hands dirty trying to tackle the issue right away. I don’t think it’ll make COVID go away in the near future, but infections and deaths have been rising again. We have the vaccine, now it’s just a matter of getting it out to as many people as we can. Hopefully Biden’s plan addresses that. I don’t see any other way he could’ve gotten these things done, so even though I don’t necessarily agree with just rolling things out blindly, I prefer this way than the alternative, which would be nothing.”

Closing Remarks

Me: “Do you guys have anything else to add? Can you think of ways his orders have already affected us? Do you think they will? Do you think they’re good or bad for us as a country, overall?”

Cristian: “It’s dangerous to have a president just pass laws without going through the whole process as soon as they come into power. This can easily be taken advantage of if someone has bad intentions. But as far as what Biden has done with executive orders so far, I pretty much agree with all of it. I haven’t seen if affect me, but I’m sure it will, even if it’s just little ways with the stimulus and getting back to normal soon. Beyond that I don’t think that he or any other president can single-handedly make the big sweeping changes I think are needed to really turn this country around, and my life will pretty much stay the same.”

AJ: “Americans are suffering. He can’t change that all by himself but he can help people to make it not so hard for as many people as he can. I think he wants to, I’m just not sure how successful he will be. Beyond COVID though, I see Biden as just another corporate politician, and I feel strongly that he won’t make any real lasting impact on my life or the peoples’ around me.”

 

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