U.S. President Joe Biden signs executive orders in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday.(Bloomberg Photo )
U.S. President Joe Biden signs executive orders in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday.(Bloomberg Photo )

On Day 1, Joe Biden sets the ball rolling on immigration, climate change, Covid-19

“There’s no time to start like today," Joe Biden said in his first comments to reporters as president.
By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Kanishka Sarkar
UPDATED ON JAN 21, 2021 08:28 AM IST

Shortly after taking office on Wednesday, US President Joe Biden signed a series of executive actions to reverse the policies of Donald Trump administration on immigration, climate change, racial equity and the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

“There’s no time to start like today," Biden said in his first comments to reporters as president. Soon after taking the oath of office at the Capitol, the president signed 15 executive actions and two directives that amount to an attempt to rewind the last four years of federal policies with striking speed.

Here’s a look at the orders the president signed on his first day:

Immigration

Six of Biden's 17 orders, memorandums and proclamations deal with immigration. He ordered efforts to preserve Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program known as DACA that has shielded hundreds of thousands of people who came to the US as children from deportation since it was introduced in 2012. He also extended temporary legal status to Liberians who fled the civil war and the Ebola outbreak to June 2022.

To avoid a rush on the border, Biden aides signaled that it will take time to unwind some of Trump's border policies, which include making asylum-seekers wait in Mexico for hearings in US immigration court. The Homeland Security Department said that on Thursday it would stop sending asylum-seekers back to Mexico to wait for hearings but that people already returned should stay put for now.

The new president, however, has halted work on a border wall with Mexico.

Covid-19

Shifting immediate focus on the coronavirus pandemic, among the executive actions signed by Biden on Wednesday was one requiring masks and physical distancing on federal property and by federal employees. Biden's order extended the federal eviction freeze to aid those struggling from the pandemic economic fallout, created a new federal office to coordinate a national response to the virus and restored the White House’s National Security Council directorate for global health security and defense, an office his predecessor had closed.

Biden has halted the process of withdrawing from the World Health Organization, aides said. His administration also intends to join the COVAX alliance, an initiative led by the World Health Organization and two other groups that seeks to secure greater access to Covid-19 vaccines for poor countries.

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Travel ban

President Biden has signed an executive order ending the restrictions on travel and immigration from some predominantly Muslim countries. The measure directs the State Department to resume visa processing for those countries and develop a plan to address people affected, such as those who were denied entry to the US.

The action also orders reviews of other “extreme vetting” practices used by the Trump administration, while directing the US to improve information-sharing with foreign governments to bolster screening of travelers.

Climate change

Biden targeted Trump's environmental record, calling for a review of all regulations and executive actions that are deemed damaging to the environment or public health, aides said Tuesday as they previewed the moves.

The president has declared his intent to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord. His administration submitted a letter to the UN that formally triggers a 30-day process to reenter the Paris climate agreement.

Biden also scrapped the Keystone XL pipeline connecting the Alberta oil sands to coastal refineries in Texas -- a move that threatens to strain ties with Canada.

Advancing Racial Equity

Biden has ordered federal agencies to prioritise racial equity and review policies that reinforce systemic racism. He revoked a Trump order that sought to exclude noncitizens from the census and will order federal employees to take an ethics pledge that commits them to upholding the independence of the Justice Department.

His administration will order all agencies to take all lawful steps to ensure the adoption of the recent US Supreme Court ruling clarifying that LGBTQ people are among those protected from workplace discrimination, news agency Bloomberg reported.

Infrastructure plan

Biden will present to Congress next month an infrastructure-focused "Build Back Better Recovery Plan" -- separate from the $1.9 trillion Covid and economic stimulus package he's seeking, news agency AFP reported.

The package is expected to be similar to the $2 trillion green climate plan Biden outlined during his campaign. It promises "to meet the climate crisis, build a clean energy economy, address environmental injustice, and create millions of good-paying union jobs."

Govt ethics

Biden has ordered federal employees to take an ethics pledge that commits them to upholding the independence of the Justice Department. He will implement new ethics rules for political appointees across the administration.

(With agency inputs)

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