Ever since the Diversity Visa (DV) lottery was enacted in 1990 in order to make it possible for more people from low immigration countries - mainly in Africa and Asia - to immigrate to the US without meeting family or employment-based requirements, this program has been under attack from immigration restrictionists. At a hearing before the Republican - controlled House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims in 2004, all the expected aguments against the DV program were trotted out, and they have been repeated many times since, especially by people such as former Congressman Tom Tancredo, Center for Immigration Studies Director Mark Krikorian and other opponents of "mass immigration".
According to its detractors, the main arguments against the DV program are as follows:
a) The DV program does not support the nation's traditional immigration goals for providing needed workers (skilled or unskilled), since any high school graduate is eligible regardless of whether US employers would need him or her to work for them;
b) The DV program does not support America's traditional goals of uniting families, since no US family ties are required for eligibility.,
c) The DV program would make it easier for terrorists to enter the US, and
d) The DV program is open to fraud.
The first three arguments can be easily dismissed. The DV program provides 50,000 green cards a year in addition to, not instead of work based or family based green cards. DV green cards do not reduce the number of any other visas or green cards available.
There is also more than a faint odor of hypocrisy in the argument that the DV program does not support traditional or current immigration policy objectives. The same people who want to abolish the DV program, including Lamar Smith himself, have not been heard very often on the side of those who support either family immigration or employment based immigration as we know it. To the contrary, they have been the loudest in arguing that these, and almost all other forms of immigration, should be drastically reduced.
With regard to the argument that the DV lottery may make it easier for terrorists to enter the US, it is true that some of the eligible countries have been named as state sponsors of terrorism. But there is no evidence that the DV program has increased the terrorist threat to America.
On September 21, 2007, The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), issued a report to the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security of its study of the DV program (GAO-07-1174). This report, among other things, said:
"in 2003, State's Inspector General raised concerns that aliens from countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism can apply for diversity visas. Nearly 9,800 persons from these counties have obtained permament residency in the United States through the program. We found no documented evidence that DV immigrants from these, or other countries, posed a terrorist or other threat." (Italics added.)
While the same report did mention a theoretical possiblilty that terrorists or criminals might use the DV program to come to the US through fraud, it did not cite any instances where this had actually happened. The worst terrorist incidents in the US since that time have been home grown. Think Tucson, Arizona; Aurora, Colorado; and Oak Creek, Wisconsin.
Restrictionsists have been warning that almost all non-European immigrants are potential "terrorists" since long before 9/11. They will continue to do so long after the DV lottery is abolished, if indeed it ever is. My next comment will look at the fraud claim and show that this argument is also not a good reason to abolish the DV lottery.
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