(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden urged lawmakers to pass a pared-down package of changes to immigration law, as his administration continues to grapple with historic numbers of apprehensions at the southwest US border.
Biden, in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, called on Congress to approve more funding for officers and equipment to “secure the border” and a citizenship path for undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children, known as Dreamers, as well as farm workers, essential workers and migrants on temporary status.
“American border problems won’t be fixed until Congress acts,” Biden said. “If we don’t pass my comprehensive immigration reform, at least pass my plan.”
Several Republicans shouted “secure the border” as Biden spoke and Speaker Kevin McCarthy appeared to try and shush them from the rostrum.
Biden’s narrower proposal is an acknowledgment of the divided nature of Congress. Republicans won control of the House of Representatives in the November midterm elections, when they campaigned against the president’s immigration policies, saying they have encouraged migrants to cross into the US.
The president proposed a sweeping immigration overhaul on his first day in office that would have created a path to citizenship for many of the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US. Yet that package never gained traction in Congress over the last two years, when Democrats had slim majorities.
While Biden’s new proposal is slimmer than his first, it would still mark the most significant changes to US immigration law in decades.
The Biden administration expanded a policy last month allowing authorities to quickly expel migrants from Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua using the controversial Trump-era public health authority known as Title 42.
Migrants from those countries have driven the high level of apprehensions for the last year, including more than 250,000 alone in December. At the same time, the US will admit 30,000 migrants per month from those nations who apply to live and work temporarily.
Biden said the program has resulted in “unlawful migration” from those four countries falling by 97% since it was implemented.
--With assistance from Josh Wingrove and Billy House.
(Updates with new details from speech starting in 4th paragraph)
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