House GOP Member Wants to Abolish Diversity Visa Program

The annual green card lottery is a fixture of the U.S. immigration system, allowing up to 50,000 foreign nationals to immigrate to the United States on a diversity visa, if they come from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the U.S. and they meet the program’s eligibility requirements, such as a high school diploma (or equivalent) or two year’s of work experience over the past five years in a job requiring at least two years’ training or experience. (See Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery Program, U.S. Department of State WebSite).

As in past years, California Congressman Darrell Issa once again is proposing to eliminate the diversity visa program, offering to provide 55,000 new green cards to foreign students who earn advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math fields at U.S. universities. (See Darrell Issa Proposes Eliminating the Green Card Lottery, Again, by J. Stephen Wilson,, 16.Jan.2011.)

Doubtless, many in Congress will find Issa’s proposal appealing, for a variety of reasons. As the Examiner commentary points out, immigration restrictionists – including the nativist element – have wanted to abolish the diversity visa program for years. Some will surely find attractive the prospect of making 55,000 green cards available to foreign-born STEM grads at U.S. universities – not a bad idea in itself, but problematic to the extent that it would do this at the expense of the diversity visa program.

Instead of eliminating the DV program, the Examiner piece argues that additional visas could be set aside within the existing H1B program for graduates with masters’ degrees or higher, and that entry standards for the DV lottery could be strengthened by requiring a certain percentage of applicants – perhaps at least a third – to have bachelors’ degrees or higher. Make no mistake about it: we should be doing all we can to attract more of the best and brightest to the United States, to build our economy, but we need not do it at the expense of the DV program. We need more STEM graduates, but we also need the energetic, ambitious people who come to us through the DV program. It need not be either / or.

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