US President Joe Biden called immigration “essential to America” tonight while calling on lawmakers to take action on behalf of countless people eager for a pathway to citizenship, CNN reports.
“Let’s end our exhausting war over immigration,” Biden said during his first joint address to Congress. “For more than 30 years, politicians have talked about immigration reform and done nothing about it. It’s time to fix it.”
Biden’s immigration challenge: Biden has moved to reverse many of his predecessor’s anti-immigration policies, the consequences of those restrictive measures linger and have contributed to a massive backlog of nearly 2.6 million visa applications.
The backlog includes nearly half a million applicants who are “documentarily qualified” and ready for interviews, according to a recent legal filing by the State Department.
Backlogs in some immigrant-visa categories are 50 or even 100 times higher than they were four years ago, at the start of the Trump administration.
Some of the backlogs are due to restrictions imposed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. But some also spring from pre-pandemic Trump policies or actions that the Biden administration hasn’t unwound.
The Biden administration is still reviewing or hasn’t fully reversed some measures that slow or block processing, such as heightened background checks and questionable terrorism designations.