Washington, Jan 20 (efe-epa).- Newly-inaugurated President Joe Biden on Wednesday afternoon, after inaugural formalities were concluded and he had paid a visit to Arlington National Cemetery to honor US troops, signed a series of executive orders, many of them reversing moves his predecessor, Donald Trump, had made during the past four years.
“There’s no time to start like today,” Biden told reporters as he began signing more than a dozen orders and memoranda in the Oval Office.
“I’m going to start by keeping the promises I made to the American people,” he said.
The president signed an order for the US to rejoin the Paris Agreement, a gesture seeking to reestablish Washington’s leadership in the fight against climate change and fulfilling one of his main campaign promises.
The executive order once again makes the US a signatory to the Paris Climate Accord, from which Trump formally withdrew the country on Nov. 4, 2020, one day after the presidential election but more than two years after he had announced he would do so in June 2017.
Biden also signed another executive order preventing the US from leaving the World Health Organization, that now-cancelled withdrawal process initiated by Trump and scheduled to become effective in July 2021.
Biden had said that one of his first official acts in office would be to halt the process launched by Trump last July to pull Washington out of the WHO, an entity from which the former president had also withdrawn funding, a major blow given that the US was the WHO’s greatest contributor.
Among the other executive orders Biden is signing on Wednesday are the following:
– Ending Trump’s ban on the arrival of citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations.
– Allowing the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies to set immigration enforcement policies, this being a shift Trump’s executive order directing the DHS’s controversial and harshly criticized – by Democrats – measures to prevent illegal migration into the US, mainly across the border with Mexico.
– Rescinding the Trump administration’s directive not to count non-US citizens in this country in the Census, a directive that would have resulted in a significant undercount of the people in the US and a misallocation of government funding, not to mention a misapportionment of seats in Congress.
– Maintaining the freeze on federal student loan repayments through at least the end of September 2021.
– Implementing Covid health protocols – specifically facemask wearing and social distancing – on federal property nationwide, including federal lands and buildings and for all federal employees and contractors.
The president’s executive order on Covid also launched the so-called “100 Days Masking Challenge” asking everyone to wear a facemask for up to 100 days in a bid – which health authorities have said can be very efficacious – to limit the spread of the disease, which has killed at least 400,000 people in this country, according to the independent tally being kept by The Johns Hopkins University. The past year’s death toll in the coming days will exceed the total US death toll of some 405,000 in World War Two over Washington’s three-and-a-half-year involvement.
– Creating the new position of “Covid-19 response coordinator,” an official who will coordinate the federal government’s response to the pandemic, including the vaccine rollout, and who will report directly to the president.
– Halting construction of Trump’s much-touted border wall along the frontier with Mexico, a move the ex-president put in place in an effort to halt land entry into the US by that route by illegal migrants.
– Extending the federal moratorium on tenant evictions and mortgage foreclosures – which was set to expire on Jan. 31 – through the end of March 2021.
– Increasing the protections for so-called “Dreamers” by preserving the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program.
The Dreamers are the hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought into the US, usually by their parents, as minors and who might have faced expulsion as illegal aliens under Trump’s harsher anti-immigrant policies.
DACA was implemented by former President Barack Obama in mid-2012 and allows some “Dreamers” with unlawful presence in the US to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and become eligible for a work permit, however the Trump administration in September 2017 announced plans to phase out DACA, triggering several lawsuits challenging that move, as well as injunctions temporarily halting it.