- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 20, 2021

A few strokes of President Biden’s pen on Wednesday put a stop to much of former President Trump’s legacy.

Mr. Biden, in a first-day series of executive orders, memos, directives and proclamations, halted border wall construction, nixed the travel ban, canceled the commission to celebrate the country’s Founding Fathers and erased the presidential approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

He also restored the U.S. to its role in international agreements, including the World Health Organization and the Paris climate accord.

Mr. Biden also forged new guiding principles for the massive federal bureaucracy. He ordered them to put the pandemic first and to elevate climate and racial justice issues to the forefront of all their decision-making.

The Biden team revealed the moves early Wednesday morning, delivering a parting shot to Mr. Trump even before he left the White House.

“I am proud of today’s executive actions,” Mr. Biden said at the White House as he worked his way through a stack of more than a dozen folders, each of them representing a different action. “I’m going to start by keeping the promises I made to the American people.”

But he also said the executive actions go only so far, and Congress will need to step forward with legislation for most of his agenda.

The expansive list of first-day Biden moves is a sign of just how much Mr. Trump himself did through executive action, a path that made it easy for a president of differing beliefs to undo.

Mr. Trump did the same thing to former President Barack Obama, who like Mr. Trump had difficulty getting Congress to approve much of his agenda and instead turned to his executive powers.

Indeed, many of the moves Mr. Biden made Wednesday amounted to restoring Obama-era policies that Mr. Trump tried to eradicate through his own pen. Mr. Biden served as vice president under Mr. Obama.

DACA, the deportation amnesty for illegal immigrant “Dreamers” that the Obama administration established by executive branch memo, and which Mr. Trump tried to erase the same way, is now back on firm footing thanks to a Biden directive.

Likewise the Paris climate accord. Mr. Obama joined that deal through executive commitment, Mr. Trump rescinded that commitment, and Mr. Biden on Wednesday ordered the U.S. to rejoin it.

Mr. Biden also ordered that illegal immigrants be tallied in the Census Bureau count that Congress will use to apportion seats in the House of Representatives this year.

More broadly, the president ordered a halt to every rule and regulation being processed by the vast federal bureaucracy. That move — standard for new administrations — will give the Biden team a chance to decide which regulations it wants to head off.

In terms of breaking new ground, Mr. Biden announced a “whole of government” effort on racial justice and said his domestic policy adviser, Susan E. Rice, will oversee efforts to scrub the bureaucracy of policies that the new administration deems discriminatory.

Mr. Biden also said he is canceling Mr. Trump’s 1776 Commission, created last year to counter the push, fueled by Black Lives Matter protests, attacking memorials to some of the country’s founding era figures such as George Washington.

The Biden team said the commission was really an attempt “to erase America’s history of racial injustice.”

Mr. Biden will also revoke Mr. Trump’s executive order demanding that agencies cancel diversity training programs that portrayed the U.S. as a flawed nation.

The Biden team made no mention of Mr. Trump’s National Garden of American Heroes, another major Trump initiative from last summer, which was intended as an answer to the statues being torn down by mobs in cities across the country.

Late Wednesday, the Homeland Security Department announced that it would also halt a key Trump border policy, known as Remain-in-Mexico, which was key to stopping the 2019 migrant surge.

The halt goes into effect Thursday, though Homeland Security said other blockades, such as pandemic-related travel restrictions, still apply and could prevent a run on the border.

But most of Wednesday’s immigration moves focused more on reining in interior enforcement against illegal immigrants who already jumped the border or who arrived legally but overstayed visas.

Mr. Biden also erased Mr. Trump’s travel ban, which the new president labeled a “Muslim ban,” and ordered the State Department to start processing visas for visitors from the countries affected. But, in an acknowledgment that Mr. Trump was on to something, Mr. Biden ordered stiffer screening and vetting of travelers.

Moves like withdrawing the presidential imprimatur for construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and halting oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge drew rebukes from Republicans, who said Mr. Biden is sacrificing jobs and energy security on the altar of environmental extremism.

“I hope this isn’t a preview of what’s to come from the Biden administration,” said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican.

Other Republicans said the executive orders sounded a dissonant note just hours after Mr. Biden, in his inaugural address, called for unity and pledged to be a president for voters who backed him and voters who didn’t.

“It was a speech of unity and it’s important to govern that way as well,” said Sen. John Barrasso, Wyoming Republican.

Mr. Biden also announced a bill envisioning the most generous immigration legalization in U.S. history, wiping away barriers for illegal immigrants to integrate into American society.

It would expand avenues for legal immigration, erase barriers to illegal immigrants gaining a foothold in the U.S. and even create an opportunity for people who have been deported under Mr. Trump to request to be allowed back into the country.

The bill is light on security measures and focuses instead on leniency and reversing the direction Mr. Trump set.

The crux of the bill is a generous legalization program for most of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S.

It would grant immediate legal status to illegal immigrant Dreamers and those in the U.S. under special humanitarian protections. Other illegal immigrants would have to go through a process with a five-year wait before obtaining a green card signifying permanent legal status.

Dreamers and other illegal immigrants would get a speedy chance at citizenship, with just a three-year wait between a green card and eligibility to naturalize.

Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican involved in the last major immigration debate in 2013, declared Mr. Biden’s plan a nonstarter.

He said there are too many other issues already stacked up, and besides, Mr. Biden’s offer doesn’t include any new enforcement standards.

“There are many issues I think we can work cooperatively with President-elect Biden, but a blanket amnesty for people who are here unlawfully isn’t going to be one of them,” Mr. Rubio said.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2024 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide