Twenty Years Later, the Diversity Visa Lottery Is Outdated

Published on April 20th, 2011

by Joe Guzzardi
April 11, 2011

On April 5, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement headed by California’s Elton Gallegly convened a hearing to debate H.R. 704, the SAFE for America Act that would terminate the controversial Diversity Visa (DV) lottery.

Utah Senator Orrin Hatch has introduced a companion bill, S.332 (Strengthening Our Commitment to Legal Immigration and America’s Security Act), that would also do away with the DV. Additionally, Hatch’s bill would end the Obama administration’s abuse of discretionary measures for granting de facto amnesty, establish a mandatory exit system to track foreign visitors’ departure and require the IRS to notify an employer of employees’ mismatched Social Security numbers.

Each year from a pool of more than 15 million, approximately 55,000 DVs are awarded randomly. Although the program claims to have rigid eligibility requirements that include a high school education or its equivalent and two years of professional work experience (in the last five years), none of that background is easily verified.

Only individuals without ties to the United States and who do not live in a top immigrant sending country can apply for a DV. That leaves most of the world including developing countries whose residents have little education, few skills and may be terrorist sponsoring nations. The 173 eligible countries listed in the State Department’s 2009 catalogue included Iran, Syria, Somalia, Cuba and Libya, all of which in aggregate have had 835 recent lottery winners. In his speech at the Heritage Foundation, Senator Hatch explained the visa’s flaws: “Unlike other immigrant visa categories, the Diversity Visa allows people to immigrate to the United States without having any connection to the country. In other words, the applicants may not have any family, employment, or even an economic tie to the United States.”

Created in 1990, the DV has long since outlived whatever usefulness it may have had. Over its two decade existence, 1.1 million diversity visas have been issued. Beyond that, more than twenty million legal immigrants have also permanently settled in the United States as well as millions more who entered illegally but managed to avoid deportation. According to Chairman Gallegly, who cited State Department information, the diversity program is rife with fraud. Gallegly insists that immigration policy should be based on something other than “the luck of the draw”.

As an example of the risks created by a chance lottery with inadequate background checks, consider Akouavi Kpade Afolabi from Toga. Before apprehended, Afolabi parlayed a DV into a major New Jersey-based human trafficking industry. For over five years, he imposed forced labor on two dozen African girls, ranging from 10 to 19 years old. Using physical beatings, threats of voodoo curses, shame, and isolation and purported sexual abuse, Afolabi and his co-conspirators forced the victims to work without pay seven days per week, for 10 to 14 hours each day.

Despite ample evidence that the DV is dangerous, Judiciary Committee ranking Democratic members Zoe Lofgren and Representative John Conyers as well as U.S. Ambassador Johnny Young from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops gave vague testimony that diversity creates a better America and the visa represents “hope” to the millions struggling worldwide.

Lofgren and Conyers specious arguments aren’t persuasive. In modern America, the financially crippled and overpopulated nation that’s the number one target for terrorists, there’s no excuse for a program that willingly invites trouble from individuals whose identities are difficult to verify, whose skills may be limited and whose compatibility with American values is questionable.

What better time than now to end the antiquated and potentially harmful Diversity Visa?


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. He can be reached at [email protected]

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