NEW YORK – President Donald Trump’s tweet targeting the Diversity Visa Lottery program – which most Americans have little or no clue about despite it been in existence for almost 27 years and which allows 50,000 nationals along with their immediate family members every year from mostly underdeveloped countries to get an instant Green Card – is spot on. It’s not only unwarranted, economic drain on the country’s resources, but also a slap in the face of skilled, legal immigrants who wait for decades to get permanent residency.
Uzbekistan national Sayfullo Saipov, who perpetrated the deadliest terrorist attack in New York City since 9/11, earlier this week, is a product of the Diversity Visa Lottery. ISIS has gleefully claimed him as one of their own. In hospital, recovering from his wounds after sustaining a bullet shot in the hip, Saipov is reportedly cheerful, delighted with his heinous effort at killing and maiming innocent people.
“The terrorist came into our country through what is called the ‘Diversity Visa Lottery Program,’ a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based,” Trump tweeted on Nov. 1.
The Washington Post noted that the Diversity Visa Lottery program was made into law in November, 1990, after the then Congressman Schumer put forth a bill that proposed making a set number of visas available each year to “diversity immigrants” from “low-admission” countries. Despite being couched as a “diversity” action, it was openly pitched as a way to aid Irish immigrants.
Bloomberg noted that since 1995, over 400,000 people from nearly every African country have received diversity visas. This year, 53 African countries are eligible.
Indian nationals are not in the list of countries eligible for the visa. But neighboring Bangladesh is, with a lot of poor applicants like domestic workers and cycle rickshaw pullers, applying. Come the time for lottery application time every Fall, and millions around the world apply, there are numerous cases of immigration fraud, scams galore.
A Bloomberg report noted “the United States benefits…as the visa lottery has made the idea of the American Dream concrete for people around the world who otherwise have no opportunity to emigrate to the United States.”
True enough. But such expansive liberal comments that espouse diversity often neglect reality, gloss over the harm it’s doing to legal immigrants from around the world who are already here in the US, who wait with silent desperation for sometimes decades to secure a Green Card.
What illegal immigration and programs like the Diversity Visa Lottery program also does is to suck up the resources at the Department of Homeland Security, create further wait time for visas to be expedited and Green Cards to be granted.
Ideally, Trump should end the Diversity Visa Lottery immediately.
As a gesture of his intent to herald in merit-based immigration system, he should allocate the lottery of granting 50,000 Green Cards to those skilled immigrants who are waiting in the EB-2 and EB-3 categories of visas for a Green Card. The current wait times in those wait are decades, according to experts. For some legal immigrants, that would mean more than winning a couple of million dollars at Lotto.
The fact of the matter is that while a day laborer or a rickshaw puller with a high school diploma from Dhaka has a chance to get a free Green Card later this year, if he had applied for a Diversity Visa Lottery, a skilled worker who went to IIT Delhi and is working on an H-1B visa for, say Google, and his company sponsors him for a Green Card, and he lands up in either EB-2 or EB-3 category, may well have to wait till perhaps 2040 to get his Green Card. Grow old waiting.
Meanwhile, that worker from Dhaka will be able to get his family over here also on a Green Card, secure US citizenship after five years, be eligible to vote, be totally integrated into the American mainstream.
On the other hand, the H-1B worker from IIT Delhi at Google will languish as a second-class citizen for over two decades, with no assurance even then of getting that elusive Green Card, if he were to lose his job and not find another in a similar category. Forget about the citizenship.
Trump’s slogan of ‘Make America Great Again’ would truly become reality when all legal residents in the country are made to feel they are being taken care of, their quality of life also a concern of the administration.
(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)