The 17 immediate changes Joe Biden made on first day as US president

  • Video report by ITV News Washington Correspondent Emma Murphy

President Joe Biden is moving swiftly to dismantle Donald Trump’s legacy on his first day in office.

Within hours, he signed a series of executive actions that reverse course on immigration, climate change, racial equity and the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

With the stroke of a pen, President Biden ordered a halt to the construction of Trump’s US-Mexico border wall and ended the ban on travel from some Muslim-majority countries.

In total, he oversaw 15 executive actions and two directives.

Only two recent presidents signed executive actions on their first day in office - and each signed just one.

But Biden, facing a pandemic, a damaged economy and a riven electorate, is intent on showing a sense of urgency and competence he argues has been missing under his Republican predecessor.

“There’s no time to start like today,” Biden said in his first comments to reporters as president.

Here’s exactly how it started.

Masks are at the to of Joe Biden's agenda. Credit: AP


Biden is requiring the use of masks and social distancing in all federal buildings, on federal lands and by federal employees and contractors.

He is challenging all Americans to wear a mask for the first 100 days of his administration.

That’s a critical period, since communities will still be vulnerable to the virus even as the pace of vaccination increases in pursuit of Biden’s goal of 100 million shots in 100 days.

World Health Organization

Biden is also directing the government to rejoin the World Health Organization (WHO), which Donald Trump withdrew from earlier this year after accusing it of incompetence and bowing to Chinese pressure over the coronavirus.

Symbolising Biden’s commitment to a more prominent global role, White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients announced that Dr Anthony Fauci will deliver a speech on Thursday to the WHO as head of a US delegation.

  • Joe Biden gets to work, signing executive orders on Thursday

Covid response coordinator

A newly-installed coronavirus response coordinator will oversee the White House's efforts to distribute vaccines and medical supplies and report directly to the president.

Paris Climate Accord

The US will rejoin the Paris climate accord, fulfilling a campaign pledge to get back into the global climate pact on day one.

Trump, a supporter of oil, gas and coal, had made a first priority of pulling out of global efforts to cut climate-damaging fossil fuel emissions.

It will take 30 days for the US to officially be back in.

Donald Trump had taken the US out of the Paris Climate Accord. Credit: AP

Cancel Keystone XL pipeline

Biden is moving to revoke a presidential permit for the Keystone XL oil and gas pipeline that would run from Alberta, Canada to Nebraska, and reviewing a Trump administration freeze on vehicle mileage and emissions standards.

He is reversing dozens of Trump’s actions on the environment.

Ending Muslim ban

Biden is ending what is variously known as the “travel ban” or the “Muslim ban,” one of the first acts of the Trump administration.

Trump in January 2017 banned foreign nationals from seven mostly Muslim countries from entry into the country.

The new administration says it will improve the screening of visitors by strengthening information sharing with foreign governments and other measures.

Border wall

The new president is immediately ending the national emergency that Trump declared on the border in February 2018 to divert billions of dollars from the Defense Department to wall construction.

Despite Trump’s repeated promises that Mexico would pay for the wall, US Customs and Border Protection says Americans have committed $15 billion for more than 700 miles (1,120 kilometres).

Watch ITV News ITV News Senior International Correspondent John Irvine report from the wall in October last year

It is unclear how many miles are under contract and what penalties the government would have to pay for cancelling them.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

Biden will order his Cabinet to work to preserve the DACA program, which has shielded hundreds of thousands of people who came to the country as young children from deportation since it was introduced in 2012.

Trump ordered an end to DACA in 2017, triggering a legal challenge that ended in June when the Supreme Court ruled that it should be kept in place because the Trump administration failed to follow federal rule-making guidelines in undoing it. But DACA is still facing legal challenges.

In his presidential proclamation, Biden is calling on Congress to adopt legislation that gives DACA recipients permanent legal status and a path to citizenship. There are currently around 700,000 people enrolled.


Biden is revoking one of Trump’s first executive orders, which declared that all of the roughly 11 million people in the country illegally are considered priorities for deportation.

The Department of Homeland Security will conduct a review of enforcement priorities. Biden’s campaign site says deportations will focus on national security and public safety threats.


In another reversal, Biden is reversing a Trump plan to exclude people in the country illegally from being counted in the 2020 Census.

The once-a-decade census is used to determine how many congressional seats and Electoral College votes each state gets, as well as the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal spending each year.

Trump lost! What now? Listen to the latest episode of our US election podcast below and subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify

Biden’s team says the new administration will ensure the Census Bureau has time to complete an accurate count for each state and that the apportionment is “fair and accurate.”

Green cards

Biden is also proposing legislation that would grant green cards and a path to citizenship to anyone in the United States before January 1, 2021 - an estimated 11 million people.

Most would have to wait eight years for citizenship but people enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for young immigrants and with Temporary Protective Status for fleeing strife-torn countries would only wait three years.

Other provisions lessen the time that many people have to wait outside the United States for green cards, provide development aid to Central America and reduce the 1.2-million-case backlog in immigration courts.

Student debt

Biden is asking the Education Department to extend a pause on federal student loan payments through at least September 30, continuing a moratorium that began early in the pandemic but was set to expire at the end of January.

Borrowers, who owe a collective $1.5 trillion, would not be required to make payments on their federal student loans, their loans would not accrue any interest, and all debt collection activity would halt through September.

Congress paused student debt payments last March as part of a virus relief package, and the Trump administration extended it twice.

Housing foreclosures

Housing foreclosures and evictions would be delayed until at least March 31, 2021.

Almost 12% of homeowners with mortgages are late on their payments, while 19% of renters are behind, according to a Census Bureau survey of households.

The federal moratoriums would ensure that people could stay in their homes even if they cannot afford their monthly bills. Biden is also calling on Congress to extend assistance to renters.

Joe Biden signed a raft of executive orders. Credit: AP

1776 Commission

The President disbanded Donald Trump’s much-criticised 1776 Commission.

Trump established the group in September to rally support from white voters and as a response to The New York Times’ '1619 Project,' which highlights the lasting consequences of slavery in America.

The commission glorified the country’s founders, plays down America’s role in slavery, condemns the rise of progressive politics and argues that the civil rights movement ran afoul of the “lofty ideals” espoused by the Founding Fathers.

Workplace discrimination

Biden signed an executive order on preventing and combatting discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. Ethics

This order is aimed at reinstating White House ethics standards that were diminished or disregarded by the Trump administration.

President Donald Trump campaigned on draining the “swamp” of entrenched influences in Washington. Yet in practice, the Trump administration weakened ethics rules and failed to enforce the those he adopted, government watchdog groups say.

The new ethics rules, which were described by an official on Biden’s transition, take aim at the “revolving door”.

Under the order, officials who leave the administration will be prohibited from lobbying the White House for Biden’s duration in office.

Those who depart toward the end of Biden’s tenure will be prohibited from lobbying the White House for at least two years.

Office of Management and Budget (OMB)

The OMB produces the president’s budget. Biden’s order directs the office to modernise regulatory review and undoes Trump’s processes.