WASHINGTON — Joe Biden plans to spend his first hours as president undoing many of the hallmarks of President Donald Trump’s tenure and beginning to make his own mark on how the U.S. will respond to its multiple crises.
Biden will sign more than a dozen executive actions Wednesday when he arrives 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 wearing masks on federal property.
He will also use 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.
The wide-ranging moves will set the tone for an administration that has said it will waste no time rolling back as many Trump administration actions as it can and pushing through the policy initiatives Biden pledged to tackle on the campaign trail. Incoming administration officials said Biden will issue additional executive orders and actions soon.
“We’re not going to wait weeks. We’re going to come in and hit the ground running,” senior adviser Cedric Richmond, the incoming director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, said in an interview. “I think that that is the most important part, to show the American people that we’re serious about governing.”
The Trump administration relied heavily on executive orders and memorandums to push through its policy agenda after it struggled to get legislation passed in Congress. In bypassing the legislative branch, Trump made it easier for his successor to undo the actions with the sweep of a pen, as Biden will do Wednesday.
Biden’s executive order on masks will require employees and contractors to wear face coverings in all federal buildings and on federal land — a departure from Trump’s White House, where masks were rarities. Biden is asking all Americans to wear masks for his first 100 days.
Biden will also move Wednesday to stop the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the World Health Organization, which Biden administration officials say is vital for the global response to the pandemic.
“The pandemic will continue to get worse before it gets better,” Jeffrey Zients, who will be Biden’s coordinator of the Covid-19 response, said in a conference call with reporters. “This is clearly a national emergency, and we will treat it as such.”
On the economic front, Biden will ask the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to extend the federal moratorium on evictions until at least the end of March. He will also ask the Education Department to extend the pause on interest and principal payments on direct federal loans until at least the end of September.
Biden will take steps to halt construction on a border wall, which Trump has cited as one of his main accomplishments. He plans to issue a proclamation Wednesday terminating the national emergency declaration that Trump used to divert money to wall construction.
Biden will also begin to reverse the Trump administration’s steps to roll back environmental regulations. Among the steps on Day One will be to direct agencies to consider revising fuel economy and emissions standards and to revoke the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.
Biden will also hit on racial inequality. He will direct 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 will also task 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 will send 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.
Biden’s campaign and transition team have been working with Democrats in the House and the Senate on the legislation.
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.
It’s a challenging place to begin legislatively. Three of Biden’s predecessors — George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Trump — tried and failed to get through major immigration reform. Progressives have been pushing Biden to take swift action on immigration, but he will face strong resistance from Republicans in Congress.
Biden administration officials said the Day One moves are just the start. Additional actions to come include reversing Trump’s ban on transgender service members and undoing U.S. policy that blocks funding to foreign nongovernmental organizations that provide abortion-related services.
“President-elect Biden will continue to take action over the next 10 days — and over his entire time in office — to address the four crises that he’s laid out,” press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement. “In the coming days and weeks we will be announcing additional executive actions that confront these challenges and deliver on the President-elect’s promises to the American people.”
Amanda Golden and Marianna Sotomayor contributed.