Immigration Lotto Lunacy

If you did just one thing to start fixing our visa system, a good choice would be getting rid of the visa lottery.  Now, both the Senate and the House have bills to do just that. 

Since 1990, when liberals created the lottery, the United States has given away 55,000 permanent residency visas each year.  Sen. Orrin Hatch (R.-Utah) and Rep. Robert Goodlatte (R.-Va.) have each proposed legislation that would do away with this needless visa program.

The program represents what’s wrong with our immigration system generally.  Here’s the situation:  The United States now gives out more than a million permanent visas every year.  That’s more than four times the historical average—about a quarter million immigrants a year in our first two centuries, 1776 to 1976.  Thus, in volume, we’re way over the norm.

Also, since 1965, visas go primarily to relatives of previous immigrants.  No skills, education, literacy, English proficiency or other abilities are required of most people asking the United States of America to grant them the privilege of permanently living here.  Most just need to be related by blood or marriage.

Being able to sponsor extended family for green cards drives “chain migration.”  The original immigrant often ends up being responsible for long chains of close and distant relatives who move here.  These immigrants often lack any appreciable attributes, qualities, or abilities that would advance the national interest.

Because the visa preference system puts relatives ahead of employment-based needs, family members will sneak across the border instead of waiting for their visa turn to come up.  Many live here illegally until they receive notice from Uncle Sam that they can collect their chain migration visa.

Now add the visa lottery, known as the Diversity Immigrant Visa.  It’s bad enough that relatives well outside the nuclear family get visas.  It’s bad enough unskilled, uneducated relatives get visas before talented people.  It’s bad enough that the current visa preference scheme spurs illegal immigration.  But the visa lottery allocates green cards—the ticket to U.S. citizenship, chain migration, and taxpayer-funded benefits—purely by luck of the draw.

The visa lottery is quite popular in the Third World and in terrorist-supplying states.  It starts 55,000 brand new migration chains every year.  It prompts fraud and abuse.  And the lottery poses a national security threat.

“Unlike other immigrant visa categories, the Diversity Visa allows people to immigrate to the United States without having any connection to the country,” Hatch recently explained at the Heritage Foundation.  “In other words, the applicants may not have any family, employment, or even an economic tie to the United States .”

That’s how the visa lottery works by design.  Only foreigners without U.S. ties may apply.  Only those from countries that supply America the fewest immigrants are eligible. 

Thus, some 1.7 million Bangladeshis filed for the visa lottery in 2008 alone.  So did 685,000 Nigerians and 620,000 Ukrainians.  Yet only about 25,000 Bangladeshis’ names were chosen for visas from 1995 to 2006.  For Nigerians that decade, it was about 35,000.  For Ukrainians, 32,000.  But each winner gets to sponsor many more for chain migration visas.

Because the odds of winning are so slim, fraud plagues the Diversity Visa (DV) lottery.  A 2007 Government Accountability Office report said, “The DV program is vulnerable to fraud committed by and against DV applicants.”

The GAO cited an entire industry that facilitates lottery application.  These scammers also facilitate fake documents, fake identities, sham marriages, multiple entries by the same individual, etc.

A 2003 State Department inspector general’s report found serious fraud and abuse in the visa lottery, as well as risks to national security.  The fraud included multiple applications and lack of evidence that many applicants’ “education” equaled U.S. high schooling.

The visa lottery increases America’s national security risk.  Recent top nations of origin of visa lottery winners include Nigeria, Iran, Algeria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Syria, and Yemen.  We’re talking state sponsors of terrorism and countries that the U.S. monitors as major sources of terrorists.

“You can take young people out of the madrassas [Muslim schools] that have no record of any activity with a terrorist organization but are loyal followers of Osama bin Laden,” Goodlatte told a “Fox News” reporter. 

Goodlatte’s HR 704, “SAFE for America Act,” would end the visa lottery program. Hatch’s S 332, the “Strengthening Our Commitment to Legal Immigration and America’s Security Act,” would terminate the visa lottery.

The Senate bills also would do a number of other very beneficial, overdue things.  For instance, it would end the Obama administration’s abuse of discretionary measures for granting de facto amnesty, finally set up a mandatory exit system to track the departure of foreign visitors, and require the IRS to notify an employer of a mismatched Social Security number for an employee.

The Hatch and Goodlatte bills should become high legislative priorities, given the real threats and tremendous problems they would address.