The President of the United States, Joe Biden, has signed a series of executive orders, memoranda and guidelines that will reverse some of the most controversial guidelines of his predecessor Donald Trump, including the lifting of the so-called “Muslim ban” and the resumption of the Paris Agreement.
Just hours after his inauguration in the US Capitol on Wednesday, Biden signed 15 executive acts that, according to his team, were previously aimed at “undoing the most serious damage done to the Trump administration.”
Biden told reporters in the Oval Office that “there is no time to waste”.
“Some of the executive measures I am about to sign today will help change the course of the COVID crisis. We will fight climate change in ways we have not done before and promote racial justice and support other underserved communities, ”he said, as reported by Reuters news agency.
Biden’s first major challenge when entering the White House will be tackling the growing COVID-19 pandemic, which to date has killed more than 400,000 people across the country.
To that end, on Wednesday afternoon, Biden signed the order to establish a 100-day mask mandate in the U.S. and appoint a COVID-19 coordinator to manage a national response to the pandemic.
He also announced that the US will remain a member of the World Health Organization and that Dr. Send Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, to attend the WHO summit representing the United States.
Here’s a look at some of Biden’s early executive actions as president:
Lifting of the “Muslim ban”
Biden lifted the so-called “Muslim ban,” an executive order signed by Trump in 2017 that banned travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.
The ban was changed several times due to legal challenges and finally upheld by the US Supreme Court in 2018.
“The president has put an end to the Muslim ban – a policy based on religious animus and xenophobia,” said Jen Psaki, press secretary for the Biden White House, during a briefing on Wednesday evening.
The American-Islamic Relations Council welcomed the decision as “an important first step in the repeal of the previous administration’s anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant policies”.
“It is an important fulfillment of a campaign promise to the Muslim community and its allies,” the group’s executive director Nihad Awad said in a statement.
Re-entry into the Paris Agreement
The USA will once again be a party to the Paris Agreement, Biden also announced.
The move to resume the international treaty on climate change is expected to take effect 30 days after its filing with the United Nations, Biden’s team said earlier Wednesday.
In November, the US became the first country in the world to withdraw from the treaty – a move that heightened tension between Washington and its allies in Europe and sparked widespread reprimand from environmental and human rights groups.
Start mask mandate
Biden started his “100 Days Masking Challenge” and ordered a mandatory masking mandate in all US federal buildings for the first 100 days of his tenure to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The order calls on Americans to “do their patriotic duty and mask for 100 days,” and creates the position of COVID-19 Response Coordinator, who reports directly to the President and helps build a unified national response to the growing pandemic to coordinate.
“This will reinforce our own efforts to get the pandemic under control by improving global health,” Psaki said during the briefing, adding that Dr. Fauci, one of the leading US experts on infectious diseases, would attend a WHO meeting this week US Head of Delegation “.
Biden has promised to give 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in his first 100 days in office [File: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters]The Infectious Disease Society of America immediately welcomed the mandatory mask order.
“The presidential order comes at a critical time when vaccines and a plan to accelerate their introduction offer new hope, but also when more easily transmissible variants of the virus present new challenges,” the group said.
Reintegration into the WHO
Biden stops Trump’s planned withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO).
The Trump administration informed Congress and the United Nations last July that the US would officially withdraw from WHO. The decision would have come into effect in July.
Trump justified the decision by saying that the WHO “did not carry out the required and much-needed reforms” and accused the group of helping China cover up the origins of the novel coronavirus.
The Biden-Harris administration is expected to attend a board meeting of WHO that will continue this week, Biden’s team said earlier Wednesday.
Biden received his second dose of a vaccine for COVID-19 on January 11 at ChristianaCare Christiana Hospital in Newark, Delaware [Tom Brenner/Reuters]Amnesty International USA interim executive director Bob Goodfellow hailed Biden’s WHO decision as a “much-needed first step” in restoring Washington’s cooperation with the international community.
He also urged Biden to support the WHO’s COVAX program, which is designed to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are evenly distributed between countries.
“It is of the utmost importance that the Biden administration make multilateral efforts to fight the pandemic and to support and fund global vaccination efforts,” Goodfellow said.
Stop building the border wall
Biden also overturned the national declaration of emergency, which was used to justify some of Trump’s diversion of funding for the construction of the wall on the US-Mexico border.
The contract, Biden’s team said earlier Wednesday, will initiate “an immediate hiatus” in construction to allow a review of the financing and contracting methods used.
Building a “big” and “beautiful” wall between the US and Mexico to prevent undocumented immigrants from entering the country was one of Trump’s key campaign promises for the 2016 election.
Revocation of Keystone Pipeline Approval
Biden also revoked the president’s approval for the multi-billion dollar Keystone XL pipeline, a controversial energy project designed to move 830,000 barrels of oil per day between the Canadian province of Alberta and the US state of Nebraska.
The Keystone XL pipeline was canceled by the Obama administration in 2015 but approved as President by Trump in 2017 [File: Andrew Burton/Getty Images]Canada, which said this week it remains committed to the project, expressed “disappointment” with the decision on Wednesday.
However, Matthew Campbell, an attorney for the Native American Rights Fund who has represented Indigenous nations in legal challenges against Keystone XL, said Al Jazeera Biden’s decision was “justification” for indigenous communities opposed to the pipeline.
In 2012, as Vice President of President Barack Obama, the US passed the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) to temporarily relieve “dreamers”, young people who were brought to the US as children, from deportation.
The Trump administration has tried to end the program through which 700,000 young people asked for help.
In a presidential memorandum signed Wednesday, Biden instructed the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the U.S. Attorney General, to ensure the DACA is preserved and secured.
The memorandum also calls on Congress to pass laws that provide dreamers with “permanent status and a path to citizenship.”
DACA recipients and their supporters gather in front of the US Supreme Court to support the program [File: Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP]