Joe Biden has formally reversed a series of executive actions taken by Donald Trump, including a proclamation that blocked many green card applicants from entering the United States.
Trump issued the ban last year, saying it was needed to protect US workers amid high unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic. Biden rejected that reasoning in a proclamation rescinding the visa ban on Wednesday. The president said it had prevented families from reuniting in the United States and harmed US businesses.
Other actions undone by the president included one that sought to cut funding from several cities Trump had deemed “lawless” and “anarchist jurisdictions”, and another mandating that federal buildings should be designed in a classical aesthetic.
The reversals come as the new president seeks to press forward with his own agenda and undo key aspects of his predecessor’s legacy. Since taking office last month, Biden has revoked dozens of Trump orders and issued dozens more of his own.
Immigrant advocates had pressed in recent weeks for him to lift the visa ban, which was set to expire on 31 March. Biden left in place another ban on most foreign temporary workers.
Curtis Morrison, a California-based immigration attorney who represents people subject to the ban, said Biden will now have to tackle a growing backlog of applications that have been held up for months as the pandemic shut down most visa processing by the state department. The process could potentially take years, he said.
“It’s a backlog that Trump created,” Morrison said. “He broke the immigration system.”
The latest slate of revocations targeted a grab-bag of issues, including a few that Trump signed in his last months in office.
Trump issued a memorandum in September that sought to identify municipal governments that permit “anarchy, violence and destruction in American cities.” The memorandum followed protests over George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police. The justice department identified New York City, Portland, Oregon, and Seattle as three cities that could have federal funding slashed.
Those cities in turn filed a lawsuit to invalidate the designation, and fight off the Trump administration’s efforts to withhold federal dollars.
Pete Holmes, the city attorney of Seattle, welcomed the Biden revocation, saying he was “glad to have this nonsense cleared from the decks”.
Another reversed order included one issued by Trump in his waning days, which mandated federal buildings return to a more classical style of architecture. The memorandum added that architects should look to “America’s beloved landmark buildings” such as the White House, the US Capitol, the supreme court, the Department of the Treasury and the Lincoln Memorial for inspiration.
Biden also revoked a 2018 order that called for agency heads across the government to review welfare programs – such as food stamps, Medicaid and housing aid – and strengthening work requirements for certain recipients.