Joe Biden plans immediate orders on immigration, COVID, climate

Aides to the president-elect say 15 executive orders will be immediately issued after he is sworn in on Wednesday.

In first-day moves, Biden will end Trump's much-assailed ban on visitors from several majority-Muslim countries [Tom Brenner/Reuters]

In his first hours as president, Joe Biden will aim to strike at the heart of President Donald Trump’s policy legacy, signing a series of executive actions that reverse his predecessor’s orders on immigration, climate change, and the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden plans to kick off his new administration on Wednesday with orders to restore the United States to the Paris climate accord and the World Health Organization, aides said.

The new president “will take action – not just to reverse the gravest damages of the Trump administration – but also to start moving our country forward”, the aides said in a statement.

Biden will sign 15 orders and actions hours after being sworn in as US leader to break from Trump policies and set new paths on immigration, the environment, fighting COVID-19 and the economy, they said.

In first-day moves, he will end Trump’s much-assailed ban on visitors from several Muslim-majority countries and halt construction of the wall that Trump ordered on the US-Mexico border to stem illegal immigration.

He will also set a mask-wearing mandate on federal properties to stem the spread of COVID-19, restore protections of nature reserves removed by Trump, and seek freezes on evictions and protection for millions behind on their mortgages because of the pandemic.

Biden also plans to send a bill to Congress to revamp immigration policies and give millions of undocumented migrants living in the country a path to citizenship that the Trump administration denied.

‘Just the start’

Biden will sign the executive orders and memorandums in the Oval Office in the afternoon, and ask agencies to take steps in two additional areas, said incoming Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

Biden is also directing the government to rejoin the World Health Organization, which Trump withdrew from earlier this year after accusing it of incompetence and bowing to Chinese pressure over the coronavirus outbreak.

Symbolising Biden’s commitment to a more prominent global role, White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients announced that Dr Anthony Fauci will deliver a speech on Thursday to the WHO as head of a US delegation.

Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, will lay out how the administration intends to work with the WHO on reforms, supporting the coronavirus response, and promoting global health and health security

Biden is also ending what is known as the “Muslim ban” – one of the first acts of the Trump administration. Trump in January 2017 banned foreign nationals from seven mostly Muslim countries from entry into the US. After a lengthy court fight, a watered-down version of the rule was upheld by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision in 2018.

The new US president will also begin the process of re-entering the historic Paris climate accord and issue a sweeping order tackling climate change, including revoking the presidential permit granted to the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The Day One plans were just the start of a flurry of executive actions Biden would take soon after taking office, Psaki added.

“In the coming days and weeks we will be announcing additional executive actions that confront these challenges and deliver on the President-elect’s promises to the American people,” said Psaki.

‘A new day’

Further actions will include revoking the ban on transgender Americans in military service and reversing a policy that blocks US funding for programmes overseas linked to abortion.

The 15 executive actions are an attempt to essentially rewind the last four years of federal policies with striking speed. Only two recent presidents signed executive actions on their first day in office – and each signed just one.

But Biden, facing the debilitating coronavirus pandemic, is intent on demonstrating a sense of urgency and competence that he argues has been missing under his predecessor.

“I think the most important thing to say is that tomorrow starts a new day,” said Zients on Tuesday.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies