Imbroglio over immigration bill continues, but Diversity Visa program stays on course.
By Deepak Chitnis
WASHINGTON, DC: The comprehensive immigration reform bill may be in limbo right now, with the Senate having cleared it, and enmeshed in a political lockdown in the US House of Representatives, but the government is going ahead with its Diversity Immigration Visa plan for the year, despite it being one of the categories that the Senate want to be eliminated altogether.
The program – launched as part of the Immigration Act of 1990, and also known as ‘Green Card Lottery’ – is essentially a process through which 55,000 applicants for the visa are randomly selected to receive permanent resident visas. The catch, however, is that only natives from certain countries are allowed to apply, those countries being ones that have low immigration to the US to begin with.
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This year’s ‘Green Card Lottery’ will open on October 1st, and will end on November 2nd.
Those that oppose the Diversity Visas (DV) cite that its randomness and competitiveness make it unfair to many who legitimately need Green Cards, can pose a potential national security risk, and also makes applicants highly susceptible to fraud.
In fact, the US State Department website warns applicants to be wary of potential fraud, as there are numerous websites and emails that attempt to solicit money from unsuspecting visa applicants in exchange for, as they claim, furnishing them with the Green Cards that they want.
The Senate bill replaces DVs with a merit-based program, which many senators — including Republic senator Marco Rubio of Florida — believe to be an integral part of overhauling and modernizing America’s entire economy.
“[A] more merit-based immigration system will help us attract entrepreneurs, innovators, investors, skilled workers and people driven by the desire to build a better life for themselves and, in turn, create jobs for American workers,” says Senator Rubio on his website.
There are also those who say that DVs are unfair to legal immigrants who are on H-1B or L-1 visas; highly skilled workers who come to this country and have to wait years for a Green Card end up having to wait far longer than the lucky ones who get their name drawn from the lottery and are quickly on their way to full citizenship.
Those trying to hang on to DVs argue that the lottery system and merit-based immigration are not mutually exclusive, and that both can be utilized in the pursuit of comprehensive overall immigration reform.
Proponents claim that the lottery’s entire purpose is to give an edge to countries from which the US typically gets very low immigration numbers from; eliminating that could almost completely cut off immigration from some parts of the world, which would be devastating to America, both economically and culturally.
Although signed into law in 1990, the first lottery was not conducted until 1995 (DV-1995). From the outset, thirteen countries were deemed ineligible for the lottery because they already had a large number of immigrants coming to the US: Canada, China (excluding Hong Kong and Taiwan), Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, UK territories (excluding northern Ireland), and Vietnam.
For DV-2015, the registration for which begins at the start of October, the list remains largely the same except that it adds Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Haiti, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Peru. Natives of these countries — defined as those who are originally from these countries regardless of where they may reside now, basically meaning that someone from the UK can not move to France and then apply for a Diversity Visa by saying they’re a French native — will not be considered for the Green Card Lottery.
Last year, 50% of DVs were given to applicants from Africa, 31% went to Europeans, 15% to people from Asia, 2% to central and South America, another 2% to those from Oceania (Pacific Islands), and only 0.02 coming from North America (specifically the Bahamas, as they are the only North American country eligible for DVs). A further breakdown by country can be found here.
For those interested in reading the Gang of Eight bill in its (rather lengthy) entirety, please visit The Washington Post.