By Versha Sharma
Published on 1/19/2021 at 6:00 PM
On his first day in office, President-elect Joe Biden will sign “roughly a dozen actions” aimed at reversing damaging Trump policies on the climate crisis, civil liberties, immigration, and the COVID-19 response, according to his chief of staff Ron Klain.
In a memo sent from Klain to “incoming White House senior staff” on January 16, titled, “Overview of First 10 Days,” Klain identified “four overlapping and compounding crises: the COVID-19 crisis, the resulting economic crisis, the climate crisis, and a racial equity crisis.” Klain continued: “In his first ten days in office, President-elect Biden will take decisive action to address these four crises, prevent other urgent and irreversible harms, and restore America’s place in the world.”
Here are five ways Biden will immediately reverse Trump policies on January 20, after he is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States at noon ET:
1) Rejoin Paris Climate Agreement
In June 2017, President Trump announced his intent to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, a binding international treaty on the climate crisis signed by most other countries in the world. The U.S. filed notice to withdraw in November 2019 despite widespread criticism, and officially withdrew one year later under the treaty’s rules. Biden’s plan to address the climate crisis was a central part of his presidential campaign, and he plans to rejoin the Paris Agreement immediately on January 20.
CNN reported that Biden also plans to rescind a permit granted for the Keystone XL pipeline project, the construction of which has alarmed environmental advocates and Native tribes for years.
The executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity said in a statement Tuesday, “The Biden administration’s historic moves mark the beginning of the end of America’s pariah status in the global struggle against the climate crisis. These huge first steps show Biden is serious about climate action, but re-entering the Paris Agreement and canceling Keystone must be the start of a furious race to avert catastrophe. Much more is needed, and we’re increasingly hopeful the administration will stop approving new fossil fuel projects and speed the transition to clean, distributed energy that climate science and justice demand.”
The Biden administration will be the first to have a “climate czar.” Former Secretary of State John Kerry will serve in the newly created role on the National Security Council.
2) End so-called “Muslim travel ban”
After he took office in January 2017, one of Trump’s first executive actions was to enact a travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries. There were immediate national protests at airports across the U.S., a scramble as lawyers tried to help travelers arriving from the targeted countries, and worldwide outrage.
The order was “reworked several times amid legal challenges and a version of it was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2018,” Al Jazeera reported.
Biden will end the travel restrictions on Day One, according to Klain’s memo. The president-elect spent much of his campaign reaching out to marginalized communities that were specifically targeted and discriminated against by Trump. In October, at a virtual event organized by Muslim Advocates, Biden said, “As president, I’ll work with you to rip the poison of hate from our society to honor your contributions and seek your ideas. … My administration will look like America, with Muslim Americans serving at every level.”
3) Immigration reform: a path to citizenship and reuniting separated families
Biden plans to propose to Congress an immigration bill that could provide approximately 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status an eight-year path to citizenship, according to transition officials who spoke to The New York Times and other outlets. (Klain’s memo mentions an immigration bill Biden will send on Day One to Congress; details of the plan emerged Tuesday.) The legislation, which would help fulfill one of Biden’s campaign promises to Latinx and other immigrant communities, is a marked shift from the Trump administration’s harsh policies and significant number of deportations and apprehensions at the U.S. border during the last four years. The Obama-Biden administration also faced criticism from immigration reform advocates for a high number of deportations — Obama even earned the nickname “deporter-in-chief.” Biden said during the 2020 campaign that their broad deportation policy was “a big mistake.”
The AP reported that under the terms of the bill, undocumented immigrants who pass criminal background checks, pay taxes, and meet other requirements would become eligible for a green card after five years, with a three-year path to naturalization thereafter. DREAMers, agricultural workers, and people under temporary protective status are eligible for green cards even faster if they meet certain other criteria per the draft of the bill.
Biden has also said he’d immediately set to work on creating a federal task force to reunite families separated under the Trump administrations’ brutal “zero tolerance” border policy. He said he would take actions to create the task force on his first day in office, and an executive order with more details on reuniting the families is expected within his first ten days.
4) Mandating mask-wearing on federal property
In his memo to staff, Klain wrote that Biden will launch his 100-Day Masking Challenge on Day One “by issuing a mask mandate on federal property and inter-state travel — part of a critical effort to begin to bend the curve on COVID.” The initiative is a policy as well as cultural departure from the infamously mask-averse Trump.
As of Tuesday afternoon, less than 24 hours before Biden is set to be inaugurated, Johns Hopkins University confirmed that the death toll from COVID-19 in the U.S. surpassed 400,000 people.
5) Extend moratorium on evictions and student loan payments
Biden will ask the Department of Education to extend existing suspensions on student loan payments and evictions that are currently set to expire at the end of January. CNN reported that Biden’s proposed “American Rescue Plan,” if passed by Congress, would extend the moratorium on evictions until September 2021.
“This list is not comprehensive,” Klain wrote at the end of the memo, adding that more actions will be announced in the coming days, including executive orders, presidential memoranda, and directives to federal agencies.
“President-elect Biden will take action — not just to reverse the gravest damages of the Trump administration — but also to start moving our country forward,” the incoming chief of staff wrote. “Of course, these actions are just the start of our work.”
He also wrote that “while the policy objectives in these executive actions are bold, I want to be clear: the legal theory behind them is well-founded and represents a restoration of an appropriate, constitutional role for the President.”