The diversity visa lottery was an obscure program described as a quirk in the U.S. immigration system before this week’s terror attack in New York that left eight dead and sparked diversity visa concerns at the highest levels.
That all changed when it was reported that the New York City attacker, Sayfullo Saipov, 29, came to the United States legally in 2010 from Uzbekistan through the diversity immigration lottery visa program.
President Donald Trump immediately pledged to abolish the program.
The diversity visa lottery has been described as one of the quirks of the U.S. immigration system.
Trump singled out the diversity program and one of its congressional sponsors, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., reported NPR.
Ironically, even before the terrorist attack, the diversity visa program was expected to be living on borrowed time. Last May’s lottery was expected to be the last.
Every year, as many as 14 million people vie for up to 50,000 green cards that are handed out in the lottery.
The Washington Post noted last May’s lottery was likely to be the last. The current diversity visa concerns after the terror attack reinforce that impression.
The Diversity Visa Lottery rewards under one percent of the people who enter permanent residency status in the United States.
While Trump targeted predominately Muslim countries in his travel bans, he said little about the diversity visa lottery until the terrorist attack, although the program runs counter to his preference for merit-based immigration programs.
Earlier in 2017, two bills were introduced in the Republican-controlled Congress to eliminate the program.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), the co-sponsor of one of the bills intended to end the lottery, spoke of fraud in the program and said it fails to deliver diversity, despite its name.
The diversity visa program was originally set up under Section 203(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
The legislation created a new class of immigrants known as “diversity immigrants.” They come from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. The program is concentrated on six geographical areas. No single country is allowed to pick up more than 7 percent of available visas.
The Washington Post reported Schumer did play a key role in drawing up the program to encourage immigration from nations who sent few national to the U.S. in 1990. His proposals formed part of a broader immigration package passed by Congress in a bipartisan vote and signed into law by a President George H.W Bush.
The Post noted Schumer was also part of a bipartisan group of senators who sought to end the program in 2013.
Diversity Visa Concerns Are Focused on Uzbekistan
Africans make up the largest percentage of diversity visa recipients – about 44 percent.
The New York terrorist attack raises questions whether Uzbekistan has flown under the radar.
Uzbekistan — the home country of the accused New York attacker — received 958 visas in 2006. In 2010, the United States gave green cards to 3,596 people from the Asian country.
Find out more about the diversity lottery program on the Department of State website.
Contact David Macaulay at email@example.com.