US inauguration: Joe Biden plans his first acts as president

When asked by a reporter what it felt like to be returning to the White House, President Joe Biden said it “feels like I’m going home”. Just after delivering his inaugural address, the President declared he would start working right away to deliver his agenda.

“There is no time to waste when it comes to tackling the crises we face,” Biden wrote on Twitter. “That’s why today, I am heading to the Oval Office to get right to work delivering bold action and immediate relief for American families.”

In one of his first official acts, Biden plans to return the United States to the Paris climate accord.

“A cry for survival comes from the planet itself,” Biden said in his inaugural address. “A cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear now.” The move will reverse the US withdrawal ordered by Donald Trump, who belittled the science behind climate efforts, loosened regulations on heat-trapping oil, gas and coal emissions, and spurred oil and gas leasing in pristine Arctic tundra and other wilderness.

Biden’s move will solidify political will globally, former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. “Not a single country in this world, however powerful, however resourceful one may be, can do it alone,” said Ban.

“We have to put all our hands on the deck. That is the lesson, very difficult lesson, which we have learned during last year.”

The new president will also sign an order putting an end to what he describes as “the Muslim ban” – which refers to the travel bans placed on predominantly Muslim and African countries due to national security concerns.

The 2017 list, which included countries such as Iran, Yemen, Somalia and Syria, saw multiple revisions – including the addition of Venezuela and North Korea – and was expanded in 2020 to include a number of African countries. The initial 2017 ban saw protests at airports when it was implemented in the early days of the Trump administration.

The Biden transition team said the order would restart visa processing and to “swiftly develop a proposal to restore fairness and remedy the harms caused by the bans, especially for individuals stuck in the waiver process and those who had immigrant visas denied”.

The President also plans to end construction of the wall at the southern border – one of Trump’s signature policies, which has seen 725,000 metres of wall built since 2017. Biden’s order directs “an immediate pause” on projects to allow a “close review” of the legality of the funding for the wall, and how to redirect funds that were put to the wall by the Trump administration.

Biden will be signing an order strengthening the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme, an Obama-era policy.It grants protection from deportation for illegal immigrants brought to the country as children. Trump had attempted to reverse the order but was rebuffed by the Supreme Court.

Other moves expected to come from Biden include:

• Revoking the Trump administration’s plan to exclude non-citizens from the census and the apportionment of congressional seats.
• Revoking Trump’s previous order that directed aggressive immigration enforcement.
• Re-engagement with the World Health Organisation, after Trump’s decision to withdraw in 2020.
• Rejoining the Iran nuclear deal.

– additional reporting: AP

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