Don’t Let Living in the U.S. Stop You from Applying For a Diversity Visa

Published on July 22nd, 2011

by Joe Guzzardi
July 18, 2011

Last week U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that the State Department was within its legal authority when it tossed out the May Diversity Visa (DV) lottery winning results because of a computer error.

Judge Jackson’s decision threw gasoline on an already raging fire in the international immigration community. At the same time, the reaction from the outraged instant winners who abruptly became losers revealed more about why the DV should be permanently ended.

Here’s the back story behind Judge Jackson’s verdict. According to DV guidelines established in 1990, winners from the applicants’ pool—this year 15 million people—are chosen "randomly." But because of a glitch, the computer chose 90 percent of the winners from those who applied within the first two days of the 30-day period. As a result, 22,000 who received official letters advising them that they had been selected for a visa got follow-ups telling them that their winning results had been voided.

Predictably, the 22,000 filed a class action lawsuit to block the government from nullifying their acceptances. Immediately after they were notified of the reversal of their good fortune, the winners/losers set up a Facebook page titled "22, 000 Tears." Their goal was to generate sympathy for their cause and to collect petition signatures to reinstate the original results. The petition would then be sent to President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

The mainstream media broadly defines the DV as available to applicants from countries with low rates of immigration. Less publicized is that many of these sending nations are sympathetic to terrorism and have little in common with the prevailing U.S. social and religious mores.

What the Facebook postings unwittingly revealed is that many of the applicants are already living in the United States, some possibly here legally on non-immigrant visas (that have expiration dates) and others here illegally. Both groups hoped to get lucky when they applied for a DV since it would give them green cards and put them on path to citizenship.

In interviews taped by the Wall Street Journal, one of the winners/losers is a Nigerian student enrolled at an unidentified Texas university and another, a Russian law school student.

One of the little known loopholes in the DV is that applicants like the Nigerian and Russian students can be U.S. residents. If the U.S. were a nation whose immigration laws were strictly enforced, a lottery winner with a U.S. mailing address would be investigated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement before being awarded a visa. If that individual is here illegally, then he should be deported. The U.S., however, deports almost no one and certainly not anyone in the process of submitting a DV application.

Critics of the DV have long argued that its random element, instead of being based on economic or cultural value, encourages illegal immigration among people who dream they may one day win the lottery. Once here, they can access the services of thousands of immigration lawyers who will help them file DV petitions or other change of status documents in an effort to become permanent residents.

U.S. Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA.) has introduced a bill, the Safe for America Act of 2011, that would end the visa lottery which has long since outlived whatever usefulness it may once have served.


Joe Guzzardi has written editorial columns—mostly about immigration and related social issues – since 1986. He is a Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) and his columns have frequently been syndicated in various U.S. newspapers and websites. Contact him at [email protected].

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