Joe Biden is set to be inaugurated as President of the United States tomorrow, and already he’s got a plan to overturn a bunch of the most heinous polices from Donald Trump‘s presidency.
From stopping the border wall with Mexico to making Americans actually start wearing facemasks, the moves are an urgent fix as well as a message to the rest of the world that things are about to be much less shit.
Biden will be sworn in at around midday in Washington D.C., which will actually be in the early hours of our morning here in Australia. However, these actions will be taken later in the afternoon, meaning some of us might even be awake to watch it live.
Here’s what Biden has in mind, and what it means for the country.
1. Halting construction of the border wall
This is a nice symbolic move, but it should be noted that only around half of the 1,000 miles (1,609 km) of wall Trump promised has been built. And most of that went to replacing existing sections of the border wall.
If we look at totally new sections of the wall, Trump only actually built 128 km. Most of the border with Texas, for example, has no wall.
Oh, and Mexico never ended up paying a cent.
2. Ending the Muslim travel ban
In 2017 Trump restricted entry into the US for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen – all majority-Muslim countries. He later removed Iraq and Sudan from that list and added Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela.
Later on he added similar restrictions to specific categories of visas to people from Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania, all of which are majority-Muslim or have significant Muslim minorities.
Suffice to say, the travel ban was racist and arbitrary, and it’s about time it gets lifted.
3. Rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement
Early on in his presidency, Trump withdrew the US from the Paris Climate Agreement, which is the main international treaty coordinating the world’s response to climate change.
The agreement itself is far weaker than many people wanted, but the important thing is that almost all countries were able to agree upon something… until Trump came along. In fact, the US was the only UN member state to withdraw. Pathetic.
4. Ending the Keystone XL pipeline
The Keystone XL pipeline was supposed to be a shortcut in an existing oil pipeline that ran from Canada to Texas. After the 2018 demonstration at Standing Rock against a different but related pipeline, this is a step in the right direction.
Biden will also stop oil and gas development at national wildlife monuments.
5. Counting non-US citizens in the census again
This policy from Trump verges from cruel to downright strange. Surely you’d want to have accurate data about the whole population, regardless of their citizenship status?
6. Rejoining the World Health Organisation
Amid a global pandemic, Trump threw a tantrum over Ch-eye-na and withdrew from the WHO, adding another massive barrier to global cooperation.
Dr Anthony Fauci will apparently join a boar meeting to discuss the pandemic, too.
7. The “100 Day Masking Challenge”
This will mandate that everyone has to wear face masks in federal buildings, and federal employees and contractors will have to do the same.
Social distancing will also be mandated. It’s about bloody time.
8. Extending the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures
With little financial aid and a global economy in the shitter, heaps of Americans have become homeless during the pandemic.
Extending this moratorium is much-needed respite.
9. Continuing the pause on student loan payments
Again, at a time when people are financially fucked over by the pandemic and the US government, this is one breath of fresh air.
10. Defending the “Dreamers” program
The DREAM Act was a pathway for undocumented migrants who entered the US as children to get legal temporary residency and work rights.
It’s the kind of policy that Trump wanted to end with his stupid but non-existent border wall.
11. Chance ICE arrest priorities
It’s not quite abolishing ICE – we knew the Democrats would never do this, ofc – but hopefully it means fewer undocumented migrants will be rounded up like stray animals, separated from their families and kept in cages. Hopefully.
12. Keeping protections for a group of Liberians
Liberians, not librarians.
George W. Bush (remember him?) set up the Deferred Enforced Departure allowing Liberians facing conflict or natural disaster to temporarily stay and work in the US.
Trump was eager to let it expire, even though only a few thousand people were able to take advantage of it. Biden will now keep the program in place.
13. Better coordinate the government to tackle the pandemic
That’s right, the US is going to take a leaf out of Australia’s book and perhaps set up something similar to our very own National Cabinet.
Again, about time.
14. Reviewing racial equity in federal government programs
Every federal agency will have to review racial equity in its programs.
Biden will also revoke Trump’s 1776 Commission to promote so-called “patriotic education”.
15. Strengthen workplace discrimination protections for LGBTQI+ people
We’ll have to wait and see what this actually means, but if the rhetoric is anything to go by, it’ll be good news.
16. Freezing Trump’s last minute policies
Biden will put a pause on a bunch of policies Trump tried to rush though at the last minute, such as the travel restrictions on people from Europe and Brazil which Trump very recently lifted.
17. Formulating an ethics doctrine
Biden wants every member of the president’s office to sign an ethics pledge.
“The pledge commits federal employees to uphold the independence of the Department of Justice,” he said.