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US: Biden ends travel ban on Muslim countries

21st Jan 2021
US: Biden ends travel ban on Muslim countries

By Servet Gunerigok

WASHINGTON (AA): US President Joe Biden on Wednesday ended his predecessor’s travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries, which the new administration called “discriminatory.”

Biden signed the executive order in the Oval Office after taking the oath to become the country’s 46th president.

Biden signed 17 executive actions – 15 will be executive orders, aimed at undoing much of his predecessor’s legacy on policies that span the gamut from immigration to climate and health policy. The orders place the US on track to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, the landmark agreement aimed at rolling back carbon emissions that former President Donald Trump chose to unilaterally exit from in a process that was finalized on Nov. 4.

In the proclamation, he said the US “was built on a foundation of religious freedom and tolerance, a principle enshrined” in the country’s constitution.

Trump introduced the ban in March 2017 with an executive order followed by proclamations that introduced vetting capabilities and processes, citing attempted entries of “terrorists” or “public safety threats,” in a move to prevent individuals from entering the US from Muslim countries and then several other African nations.

“Our national security will be enhanced by revoking the Executive Order and Proclamations,” said Biden, ordering all American embassies and consulates to resume visa processing in a manner consistent with the move.

The restrictions were “rooted in religious animus, and xenophobia,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters at a press briefing.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) welcomed the move, calling it “an important first step toward undoing the anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant policies of the previous administration.”

“It is an important fulfilment of a campaign pledge to the Muslim community and its allies,” said Nihad Awad, head of the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights organization.

US President Joe Biden’s first call with a foreign leader will be with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday, the White House spokeswoman said Wednesday.

“I expect they will certainly discuss the important relationship with Canada as well as [Biden’s] decision on the Keystone pipeline,” said Jen Psaki in her first press conference.

Earlier, Biden signed an executive order terminating the Keystone XL pipeline.

The move angered the premier of Canada’s Alberta province, Jason Kenney, who called for sanctions against the US.

“This is a gut punch for the Canadian and Alberta economies,” Kenney said in a fiery press conference while responding to the cancellation of the pipeline, which would carry about 830,000 barrels a day of heavy crude oil extracted from Alberta’s oil sands fields to the US state of Nebraska.

Earlier, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were officially sworn into office Wednesday in a heavily-guarded but sparsely attended ceremony at the US Capitol.
Security for the ceremony was markedly increased with 25,000 National Guard troops in Washington, D.C. to secure the area after former President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 in an attempt to thwart a constitutionally-mandated procedure before Biden assumed office.
“This is America’s day. This is democracy’s day, a day of history and hope, of renewal and resolve,” Biden said shortly after he took the oath of office. “Through a crucible for the ages America has been tested anew, and America has risen to the challenge. Today, we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of democracy.”
Five people died in the insurrection, including a Capitol Police officer. The other deaths were of Trump supporters, one of whom was shot by security.
“The will of the people has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded. We’ve learned again that democracy is precious, democracy is fragile,” Biden said. “At this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed. On this hallowed ground where just a few days ago violence sought to shake the Capitol’s very foundation we’ve come together as one nation under God, indivisible to carry out the peaceful transfer of power as we have for more than two centuries.”
Trump departed the White House earlier Wednesday for the state of Florida, opting to break with a tradition that embodies the US’s peaceful transfer of power by not participating in the inaugural events.
Normally, the outgoing and incoming presidents ride to the Capitol building together to participate in the inauguration ceremony. The tradition has been in place “with few exceptions” since 1837, according to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.
Hundreds of thousands of people usually attend the ceremony every four years, but this year the general public was asked to celebrate at home as the US continues to find itself in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed more than 400,000 lives in the country.
Biden vowed to face the health crisis head-on, saying the “once in a century virus” is “stalking” the US, and has claimed as many American lives as were lost in World War II.
The president will be confronting the virus’ grim realities as the country has been deeply fractured during the past four years, and even the donning of protective face coverings has become a highly politicized issue.
In urging Americans to unite, Biden noted the rising threats posed by “political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism,” saying they must be confronted and defeated.
“To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul, and secure the future of America requires so much more than words. It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: unity,” he said. “We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal.”
[Photo: Joe Biden (left), who won the US elections on November 3, 2020, being sworn in at the US Congress, becoming the 46th president of the country. The ceremony was also attended by Joe Biden’s wife, Jill Biden (left 2). Photographer: EPA / Erin Schaff/AA]

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