Biden swiftly starts undoing Trump policies
WASHINGTON — US President Joe Biden signed half a dozen executive orders on Wednesday to reverse several hard-line immigration policies put in place by former President Donald Trump, although migration experts warn that it will take months or longer to unravel many of the restrictions imposed in the past four years.
In a sharp departure from his Republican predecessor, Biden, a Democrat, just hours after being sworn in, also sent an immigration bill to Congress that proposes opening a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants living in the United States unlawfully.
After he was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, he offered a message of unity and restoration to a deeply divided country reeling from a battered economy and a raging coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 Americans.
Standing on the steps of the US Capitol two weeks after a mob of then President Trump’s supporters stormed the building, Biden called for a return to civic decency in an inaugural address marking the end of Trump’s tempestuous four-year term.
“To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America, requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: unity,” he said.
“We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this—if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts.”
Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, became the first Black person, first woman and first Asian American to serve as vice president after she was sworn in by US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court’s first Latina member.
15 executive actions
Saying there was “no time to waste,” Biden signed 15 executive actions shortly after entering the White House on Wednesday afternoon to set a new course and overturn some of Trump’s most controversial policies.
The orders included mandating masks on federal property, halting the withdrawal from the World Health Organization, rejoining the Paris climate accord, and ending a travel ban on 13 Muslim-majority and African countries.
The executive actions also will halt construction of the US-Mexico border wall and reverse a Trump order preventing migrants who are in the United States illegally from being counted for congressional districts.
Biden also signed a memorandum directing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the US attorney general to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects migrants who came to the country as children from deportation, and reversed Trump’s executive order calling for stricter immigration enforcement away from the country’s international borders.
Biden’s DHS also issued a memorandum calling for a 100-day moratorium on some deportations. It said it would end all enrollments in a controversial Trump program—known as the Migrant Protection Protocols—that forced more than 65,000 asylum seekers back to Mexico to wait for US court hearings.
The actions show that Biden is beginning his presidency with a sharp focus on immigration, just as Trump kept the issue at the center of his policy agenda—though they come at the issue from radically different perspectives.
Travel ban rollback
Biden’s decision to immediately roll back Trump’s travel ban won praise from business groups and migrant advocates.
Myron Brilliant, the head of international affairs at the US Chamber of Commerce, said the ban was “was not aligned with American values” and its reversal would help “restore our credibility on the global stage.”
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, travel to the United States has been curbed and the DHS said in its announcement on Wednesday that current nonessential travel restrictions will remain in place.
Biden has not yet laid out clear plans for a March 2020 order issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that allows officials to expel almost all border crossers. Since the order was put in place, around 380,000 people have been quickly sent to their home countries or pushed back to Mexico, according to US Customs and Border Protection data.
Trump, who never conceded the Nov. 3, 2020 election, did not mention Biden by name in his final remarks as president on Wednesday morning, when he touted his administration’s record. He then boarded Air Force One for the last time and flew to his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida.
Top Republicans, including Vice President Mike Pence and the party’s congressional leaders, skipped Trump’s send-off and attended Biden’s inauguration instead.
Biden told reporters in the Oval Office that Trump had left him “a very generous letter,” but he would not disclose its contents.
Biden takes office at a time of deep national unease, with the country facing what his advisers have described as four compounding crises: the pandemic, the economic downturn, climate change and racial inequality.
After a bitter campaign marked by Trump’s baseless allegations of election fraud, Biden’s inaugural speech struck a conciliatory tone rarely heard from Trump. He asked Americans who did not vote for him to give him a chance.
“I pledge this to you: I will be a president for all Americans,” he said. “And I promise you, I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.”
Oldest US president
Although his remarks were directed primarily at domestic problems, Biden also delivered a message to the rest of the world. He promised to repair alliances frayed by Trump and act as a strong partner for peace, progress and security.
Biden’s inauguration as the 46th president was the zenith of a five-decade career in public service that included more than three decades in the US Senate and two terms as vice president under Obama. At 78, he is the oldest US president in history.
He faces calamities that would challenge even the most experienced politician.
Biden’s top priority is a $1.9-trillion plan that would enhance jobless benefits and provide direct cash payments to households to alleviate the financial pain from coronavirus.
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