Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus demands Biden reduce visa backlog in urgent letter

Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus sent a letter to President Joe Biden on Wednesday demanding that he take steps to reduce the growing visa backlog, an issue that has heavily impacted the Asian American community. 

The lawmakers, led by Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., and Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, called on the president to take “immediate action” as those from Asia currently make up over one-third of the 4 million people waiting in the family-based immigration backlog. 

“This backlog shows the inability of our immigration system to meet the needs of Americans as well as prospective immigrants,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter. “While we continue to work toward an immigration system that truly centers the needs of families, we ask your administration to act and help alleviate the pressures of a system that has long needed reform.”

The White House did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services declined to comment, saying the letter was addressed to Biden. 

The lawmakers urged Biden to implement reforms that include reallocating the spots from unused visas from the past two decades to the family and employment-based visa categories. They also urged Biden to expand the use of family-reunification parole for individuals waiting in the backlog, allowing for more family members to enter the U.S. during the approval process. 

The legislators wrote that they are “committed” to helping reform the immigration system, but urged the president to act swiftly. 

“As Congress is unlikely to act as quickly as the moment demands, we ask that you act to help reunite families and contribute to the economic and societal well-being of our country,” they wrote.

The majority of the Asian American population is made up of immigrants, with more than half of all Asian immigrants relying on family reunification visas in order to come to the U.S. 

But lawmakers point out that just 165,642 of the 226,000 available family-preference visas were issued in fiscal year 2022. 

“These low numbers reflect the structural issues that have plagued our immigration system for decades,” the letter read. “As just one example, United States citizens sponsoring siblings from the Philippines currently must wait nearly 20 years for a visa to even become available.” 

The letter comes after a labor shortage has continued to impact the U.S., with 1.5 million fewer Americans working today compared to in February 2020, according to data from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. And the record lows in net international migration to the U.S. is a major contributing factor to the issue, experts have said, with immigration backlogs deepening the shortage.

“These common-sense reforms will reunite families that have been separated for far too long and will also help alleviate the pressures of continuing labor shortages and increased push factors causing individuals to seek a better life here in the United States,” lawmakers wrote. 

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