In my September 24 comment about the diversity green card lottery, I mistakenly gave 1989 as the beginning year for the AA-1 lottery, a mainly whites - only predecessor of the current Diversity Visa (DV) lottery which is now under attack from the Republicans on Capitol Hill. The AA-1 lottery actually began in 1990, not 1989. I apologize for the error. There were two predecessors to the AA-1 lottery, NP-5, which began in 1987, and OP-1, which began in 1989.
I was in fact an active participant in submitting applications on behalf of my clients for the AA-1 lottery, which, to the best of my recollection, began during a chaotic Columbus Day holiday weekend in October, 1990 at a large post office in Northern Virginia (I do not remember the exact one) surrounded by an open space the size of several football fields.
I was in the middle of that area, frantically dashing around among hundreds, if not over a thousand, of other applicants or representatives trying to guess the exact time that the Post Office would start accepting applications and which of the many boxes that had been placed on long tables at various places in that area would be picked to have their envelopes opened first.
At that time, there was no limit as to how many applications one person could file. The trick was to have one's application included among those of the lucky 40,000 people to have their application envelopes opened by the post office first. I have never seen such a madhouse, before or since.
As I ran around from table to table with my boxes containing, as i remember, several thousand envelopes (since many of my clients had put in a hundred or so applications each) I cannot forget being warned by a helpful young man with a British accent running around near me that I might be trampled to death.
Fortunately, this did not happen, and most of my clients (who were mainly from the only two Asian countries included, Japan and Indonesia) wound up being included in the lucky 40,000 who were picked. This insanity was not repeated in any subsequent year, because a limit of one application per person was imposed after that and selection was made at random, rather than first come first served.
The AA-1 lottery was open to 33 countries, mostly in Europe, North Africa or other largely white countries such as Argentina (the only Latin American country on the list). There were two Caribbean countries on the list, but these were small ones such as Bermuda and Guadeloupe. For some reason, New Caledonia, in the South Pacific, was also included.
A fair and racially unbiased lottery program this was not. It is also worth noting that two of the most common reasons for denying green cards, namely prior visa fraud and prior deportation, were waived for applicants under the AA-1 program. This is certainly not the case under the current, far more diverse DV-1 program. In the AA-1 period, Congress wanted to make things easy for white immigrants.
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years