Shannon Pettypiece, NBC News, January 20, 2021
President Joe Biden spent his first hours as president undoing many of the hallmarks of former President Donald Trump’s tenure and allowing Biden to begin his own path on how the U.S. will respond to multiple national crises.
Biden signed more than a dozen executive actions Wednesday in the Oval Office just hours after arriving at the White House after having been sworn in as the 46th president, including measures to rejoin the Paris Agreement on climate change, repeal Trump’s restrictions on travel from several Muslim-majority countries, stop construction of the Southern border wall and mandate the wearing of masks on federal property.
He also used his first day in office to propose a sweeping immigration reform bill, a lofty legislative task his administration has decided to take on from the start.
Wednesday night, Acting Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske signed a memo directing that deportations that had been ordered be paused for 100 days. There are exceptions to the pause, which starts Friday.
Biden took action to halt construction on a border wall, which Trump has cited as one of his main accomplishments. He issued a proclamation Wednesday terminating the national emergency declaration that Trump used to divert money to wall construction.
Biden also hit on racial inequality. He directed federal agencies to review “the state of equity” in their agencies and deliver plans “to address unequal barriers to opportunity in agency policies and programs,” according to a fact sheet detailing the executive actions.
He also tasked the Office of Management and Budget to more equitably allocate federal resources to “empower and invest in communities of color and other underserved communities,” the fact sheet says.
On immigration, Biden introduced legislation to Congress that would offer legal status and a pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million undocumented people, fund border security measures other than a wall and provide money and assistance to countries with high numbers of immigrants to address the root cause of migration, incoming administration officials said.
The bill would allow undocumented people to apply for temporary legal status, with the opportunity to apply for green cards after five years if they pass criminal and national security background checks and pay their taxes, a Biden administration official said. After three years, those holding green cards who pass additional background checks would be able to apply to be citizens. The policy would apply only to those in the U.S. at the start of this year.
Rather than further Trump’s construction of a border wall, the bill would provide funding for new technology to secure the border and more funding and training for border agents. The bill would also increase foreign assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, conditioned on their ability to reduce corruption, violence and poverty that cause people to flee their home countries, the officials said.