Shortly after the inaugural ceremonies came to a close, newly-minted President Joe Biden took opening day action on a handful of policy priorities while simultaneously undoing the damage done by the Trump administration. From the Oval Office Wednesday, Biden signed 17 executive actions—orders, proclamations, and memoranda—the vast majority of which covered Biden’s intention to dial up the national response to the coronavirus. Biden also undid some of the most odious aspects of Trump’s anti-immigration push. Biden described the moves as “all starting points” for further action.
Here are some of the headlining moves from Day One:
The Muslim Ban Is Gone: Trump’s patently offensive move to bar entry into the U.S. for individuals from a handful of Muslim majority countries was always exactly what it looked like—a ban targeting Muslims. Biden’s proclamation revokes the so-called “Muslim Ban,” which has been subject to an avalanche of litigation, rightfully claiming it was discriminatory. The prohibition on travel to the U.S. by citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, however, was ultimately allowed by the Supreme Court. “Those actions are a stain on our national conscience and are inconsistent with our long history of welcoming people of all faiths and no faith at all,” Biden’s proclamation reads. The proclamation directs the State Department to restart processing visas for citizens of the affected countries and to explore ways to redress any harm done to those that were denied entry.
Border Wall Construction Halted: The wall was always a boondoggle, meant to say something but with no chance of actually achieving anything. Biden’s order to halt construction on the border wall along the southern border is, therefore, also symbolic, but a much needed symbol of policy-making sanity. The order includes the “immediate termination” of the state of emergency declared by Trump in order redirect funds to the construction project.
Census Shenanigans Ended: The Trump administration spent the latter part of its term in office trying to game the country’s electoral map to give the GOP an advantage over the next decade. The administration wanted the census to exclude respondents that were not U.S. citizens, thereby giving whiter, rural, more Republican areas more political clout. “At no point since our Nation’s Founding has a person’s immigration status alone served as a basis for excluding that person from the total population count used in apportionment,” Biden’s executive order states. “During the 2020 Census, the President announced a policy that broke from this long tradition… This policy conflicted with the principle of equal representation enshrined in our Constitution, census statutes, and historical tradition.”
Some other quick hit executive wins on Day One of the Biden administration:
• U.S. Rejoins the WHO – Technically, Biden retracted the American withdrawal from the World Health Organization, initiated by Trump, which was scheduled to take place in July 2021.
• U.S. Recommits to the Paris Climate Accord
• Keystone XL Pipeline Construction Halted
• Student Loans and Evictions: The suspension of federal student loan repayments was extended through the end of September and Biden has asked agency heads to extend a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures on federally guaranteed mortgages.
What a difference a day makes.