Some in Congress Seeking to Abolish Diversity Visa Program

Some of the loudest voices in our national immigration debate say they aren’t against immigration, as such, just against illegal immigration – but as the Immigration Policy Center points out, actions speak louder than words, and recent Congressional actions show that even legal immigration is wildly unpopular in certain quarters of Capitol Hill. (See House Subcommittee Continues Assault on All Forms of Immigration, Immigration Policy Center, Press Release, Apr. 5, 2011.) How else to explain last week’s hearing by the House Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement, which took aim at the Diversity Visa Lottery program?

The hearing provided an opportunity for three out of four witnesses to endorse H.R. 704, the “SAFE for America Act,” a bill that would abolish the Diversity Visa immigrant program. (See Committee on the Judiciary, Hearing Information.) Speaking in support of the measure were Congressman Bob Goodlatte, Janice Kephardt of the Center for Immigration Studies, and Stephen Edson of SA Edson, LLC, each of whom recited a parade of horribles about the DV program, calling it hopelessly fraud-ridden and a monstrous risk to our national security, and calling, thus, for its abolition.

The lone voice against eliminating the Diversity Visa program was Ambassador Johnny Young, who directs Migration and Refugee Services for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. (See Testimony of Ambassador Johnny Young on The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, Before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement, 05.Apr.2011.) Young pointed out that the DV program was far from being a dangerous back-door method for terrorists to slip into the country, noting that DV applicants cannot be admitted if they fail to meet certain standards:

“As you are aware, Mr. Chairman, to be eligible for a Diversity Visa, applicants must not only originate in an eligible country, but also demonstrate that they either hold the equivalent of a U.S. high school education or have two years of work experience in an occupation requiring two years of training or experience within the five-year period immediately prior to the application.  Further, applicants must be otherwise admissible to the United States; Diversity Visa applicants, like other visa applicants, are subject to grounds of visa ineligibility, including medical, terrorism, and criminal bars.  Those accepted in the Program undergo stringent background checks.”

The Diversity Visa program has been a fixture of U.S. immigration law since 1990. It provides 55,000 green cards annually to foreign nationals from countries that send relatively few immigrants to the United States. The thinking behind this is sound: a diverse pool of immigrants makes our nation a culturally richer place, and distributes immigration benefits more equitably than they would be if existing family or economic ties were the only criteria. It helps to balance the scales.

Moreover, this is a legal immigration program, one that provides an orderly, controlled system for admitting a small number of immigrants each year. As Ambassador Young observed, the DV program actually “promotes respect for U.S. immigration laws – rewarding would-be immigrants who respect our laws and seek a lawful means of entry into the United States.” Perhaps we should be asking whether ANY immigration would be acceptable to the proponents of this bill – and if so, who might these people be?

Meanwhile, a handful of Tea Party types in the U.S. Senate are trying to re-write the 14th Amendment to eliminate birthright citizenship for children of illegal immigrants. (See Tea Party Senators Target Birthright Citizenship for Immigrant Children,” by Devin Dwyer, ABC News, 06.Apr.2011.) Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a long, bumpy ride to the 2012 elections.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.