Joe Biden to overturn Muslim travel ban in his first hours in office

Climate change, pandemic relief and immigration are among the issues the incoming US president will address through executive orders, top aide says

US President-elect Joe Biden introduces nominees for his science team on January 16, 2021, at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware. Biden is nominating Francis Collins to continue as Director of the National Institutes of Health, Eric Lander as Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), Alondra Nelson as Deputy Director of OSTP,
Narda Jones as Legislative Affairs Director of OSTP, Kei Koizumi as Chief of Staff of the OSTP, Frances Arnold as Co-Chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), and Maria Zuber as Co-Chair of PCAST. / AFP / Angela Weiss

In his first hours as US president, Joe Biden plans to take executive action to roll back some of the most controversial decisions of his predecessor and to address the raging coronavirus pandemic, his incoming chief of staff said.

The opening salvo would herald a 10-day blitz of executive actions as Mr Biden seeks to act swiftly to redirect the country in the wake of Donald Trump's presidency without waiting for Congress.

On Wednesday, following his inauguration, Mr Biden will end Mr Trump's restriction on immigration to the US from some Muslim-majority countries, move to rejoin the Paris climate accord and mandate mask-wearing on federal property and during interstate travel. Those are among roughly a dozen actions Mr Biden will take on his first day in the White House, his incoming chief of staff, Ron Klain, said in a memo to senior staff.

Other actions include extending the pause on student loan repayments and measures to prevent evictions and foreclosures for those struggling during the pandemic.

“These executive actions will deliver relief to the millions of Americans that are struggling in the face of these crises,” Mr Klain said in the memo.

“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.”

Mr Klain said "full achievement” of Mr Biden’s goals would require Congress to act, including on the $1.9 trillion virus relief bill he outlined on Thursday. Mr Biden will also propose a comprehensive immigration reform bill on his first day in office, he said.

Providing a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants who are in the US illegally will be part of Mr Biden's agenda, according to people briefed on his plans. Ali Noorani, president of the National Immigration Forum and among those briefed, said immigrants would be put on an eight-year path. There would be a faster track for those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme, which shields people from deportation who came to the US as children, and for those from strife-torn countries with temporary status.

On Thursday, the new president's second day in office, Mr Biden will sign orders related to the Covid-19 outbreak aimed at reopening schools and businesses and expanding virus testing, Mr Klain said.

The following day, action will be taken to provide economic relief to those suffering the economic costs of the pandemic.

In the following week, Mr Biden will take additional actions relating to criminal justice reform, climate change and immigration – including a directive to speed up the reuniting of families separated at the US-Mexico border under Mr Trump’s policies, Mr Klain said.

More actions will be added once they clear legal review, he said.

Presidents traditionally move swiftly to sign an array of executive actions after they take office. Mr Trump did the same, but he found many of his orders challenged and even rejected by courts.

Mr Klain maintained that Mr Biden should not suffer similar issues.

"The legal theory behind them is well-founded and represents a restoration of an appropriate, constitutional role for the president," he said.

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