On Wednesday, Joe Biden was officially inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States and took a series of actions to roll back major executive decisions of his predecessor, President Donald Trump.
Biden, who attempted to emphasize unity in his approximately 20 minute Inaugural address, used his first day as president to sign 15 executive orders, ranging from the subjects of climate change to race relations, and two agency actions. He also sent Congress a new piece of immigration legislation that would provide an 8-year pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants in the U.S.
Here’s a detailed breakdown by topic of Biden’s actions on his first day in office.
Biden’s first directives on the issue of immigration are polar opposites of Trump’s “America First” agenda enacted during his first weeks and months in office. In a series of executive orders, Biden halted further construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall. “It shall be the policy of my Administration that no more American taxpayer dollars be diverted to construct a border wall. I am also directing a careful review of all resources appropriated or redirected to construct a southern border wall,” the order states.
In a separate order, Biden established new guidelines to “preserve and fortify” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, commonly known as DACA. The program was created by the Obama administration in 2012 after Congress failed to pass a bill enacting comprehensive immigration reform, which was to include pathways to citizenship for DACA recipients, sometimes referred to as “Dreamers.” According to 2017 findings from the Pew Research Center, the average age of a person within the program is 24 years old. In 2017, Trump attempted to rescind the order, claiming it was an “unlawful and unconstitutional” program. The Supreme Court blocked the Republican administration’s attempt in the summer of 2020, asserting that it violated the Administrative Procedure Act.
As part of their submitted plans to Congress, Biden also proposed a new, major piece of immigration legislation that would provide amnesty and an 8-year-pathway to citizenship for 11 million illegal aliens. The legislative overhaul would also enact labor protections for foreign nationals. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio criticized the legislation.
“There are many issues I think we can work cooperatively with President-elect Biden, but a blanket amnesty for people who are here unlawfully isn’t going to be one of them,” Rubio said.
Biden also ended travel restrictions that he said the Trump administration placed “first from primarily Muslim countries, and later, from largely African countries.” As part of that action, he ordered the “Resumption of Visa Processing and Clearing the Backlog of Cases in Waiver Processing” and a review of screening, vetting, and information sharing processes that the administration says would strengthen foreign partnerships.
Biden, a Delaware Democrat, also ended an executive policy from the Trump administration that excluded illegal immigrants from being counted in the next round of congressional redistricting, and deferred deportation for Liberians with temporary protected status.
Biden re-joined the Paris Climate Agreement, a non-binding global pact the Obama administration entered the U.S. into in 2016. Trump had pulled the U.S. out of the agreement one year later, asserting it would harm the American economy, remove jobs, and undermine national sovereignty.
The U.S. has also consistently lowered its carbon emissions since its peak in 2007, which former Vice President Mike Pence noted in his debate with then Sen. Kamala Harris. “We’ve done it through innovation. And we’ve done it through natural gas and fracking,” Pence said.
Biden also signed a sweeping order that enacts new policies on the environment. The order implements a “temporary moratorium on all activities of the Federal Government relating to the implementation of the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program” in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, aims to lower pollution, revokes Trump’s order that granted a permit for continued construction and maintenance of the Keystone Pipeline.
“The Keystone XL pipeline disserves the U.S. national interest. The United States and the world face a climate crisis. That crisis must be met with action on a scale and at a speed commensurate with the need to avoid setting the world on a dangerous, potentially catastrophic, climate trajectory,” Biden’s order said.
Biden also issued a slew of orders regarding the coronavirus pandemic, a central issue in his presidential campaign. He signed an order that requires all federal employees and contractors to wear a mask in any federal building, stopping short of a national mask mandate that would face legal and constitutional scrutiny. However, it encourages “masking across America,” which Biden indicated he would do as part of his first 100 days in office.
The Democrat signed an order that directs the White House to combat the spread of the coronavirus, including by setting up the positions “Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response and Counselor to the President (COVID-19 Response Coordinator)” and “Deputy Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response.”
President Biden also rejoined the World Health Organization, which Trump ended financial ties with in 2020 over its connection with the Chinese Communist Party.
Biden’s administration made two main decisions on the economy. The first involves extending a pause on federal student loan payments, though progressives have urged him to go further and cancel student loan debt.
“Too many Americans are struggling to pay for basic necessities and to provide for their families. They should not be forced to choose between paying their student loans and putting food on the table,” the directive says.
The second extends a federal moratorium on evictions and instructs federal agencies to extend moratoriums on foreclosures of federally guaranteed mortgages.
In November, Trump signed an executive order creating the 1776 Commission, designed to counter ahistorical theories about the American founding provided by The New York Times’s 1619 Project. Among those inaccuracies noted by historians is the assertion that the Revolutionary War was an effort by colonists to preserve slavery rather than declare independence from the British monarchy. Biden ended Trump’s commission and created new standards of “equity” for “underserved communities.”
It instructs the Domestic Policy Council to work to remove “systemic barriers to and provide equal access to opportunities and benefits, identify communities the Federal Government has underserved, and develop policies designed to advance equity for those communities.”
Biden also signed an order that enforces “Prohibitions on Sex Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation.”
Ethics and Regulation
Biden rescinded a variety of executive orders from his predecessor that dealt with the regulatory approval process and ordered the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs to “modernize” regulatory review.
Lastly, Biden ordered all federal employees to take a new government ethics pledge, which the White House states is “designed to restore and maintain public trust in government.”
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