WASHINGTON: In his first order after taking the oath of his office on Wednesday, US President Joe Biden removed the travel ban on some Muslim and African nations placed by his predecessor Donald Trump.
The order revokes the final version of a Trump-era executive order which blocked people from seven, mostly Muslim-majority, nations from entering the United States.
The new administration also revoked another immigration ban that largely impacted people from four African nations.
In July last year, Mr Biden told the Million Muslim Votes club that if elected, “I will end the Muslim ban on day one. Day one. And I will work with Congress to pass hate crimes legislation” to prevent future actions.
New US president signs orders to rejoin Paris Climate Accord and WHO
Mr Biden re-emphasised this message in his final debate with Mr Trump in October, saying that the former president had “banned Muslims” from coming to the United States because “they are Muslims”.
One of Mr Trump’s first actions as president in 2017 was to suspend entry to the United States of travelers from some Muslim majority nations. The ban caused chaos at airports across the United States as people from many Muslim-majority nations were blocked from entering the country. But the order was quickly blocked by US courts.
In 2018, the US Supreme Court upheld a third version of the ban, which applied to people from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and Venezuela. Although it allowed some people to receive waivers, the waivers often proved impossible to obtain.
President Biden’s new immigration order directs the State Department to return to normal processing of applications for people impacted by the bans. It also urges the department to find ways to help those who have been denied entry to the United States because of these bans.
In one afternoon, Mr Biden signed 17 executive orders, memorandums and proclamations from the Oval Office, including orders to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and the World Health Organisation (WHO) and to end the Muslim ban.
“We’re back in the Paris Climate Agreement,” he said in a tweet from the official Twitter account of the US president.
On Thursday, top US health official Dr Anthony Fauci attended a virtual meeting of the WHO executive board and told the participants that “the United States stands ready to work in partnership and solidarity to support the international Covid-19 response”.
Mr Trump had pulled the US out of the WHO for its refusal to endorse his view that China had created the Covid-19 virus and was now spreading it across the world to weaken the global economy.
On his first full day in office, President Biden also moved to halt the construction of Mr Trump’s wall along the US-Mexico border, and signed a presidential memorandum to fortify DACA, the Obama-era programme which shielded undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children from deportation.
Another order implements a mask mandate on federal property. Called “100 Days Masking Challenge”, the order calls for a nationwide face mask and social distancing mandate in federal buildings, on federal lands and by federal employees and contractors.
Another order changes the Trump-era arrest priorities for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This executive order will repeal the changes Mr Trump made in the first week of his presidency in 2017 to allow police to probe and arrest people for immigration violations.
Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2021