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A flawed immigration policy

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By Congressman Bob Goodlatte

Amazingly each year there is a national immigration ‘lottery’ by which approximately 50,000 foreign nationals get green cards to become legal permanent residents of the U.S.  Each successful applicant is chosen at random and given permanent resident status based on pure luck. The visa lottery program threatens national security, results in the unfair administration of our immigration laws, and encourages a cottage industry for fraudulent opportunists. 

The visa lottery program’s threat to our national security is very real.  In 2002, Egyptian national Hesham Mohamed Ali Hedayet killed two and wounded three people in a shooting spree at L.A. International Airport.  Because Hedayet’s wife was admitted as a visa lottery winner, he was allowed to apply for residency despite his own admission to the INS that the Egyptian government had accused him of being a member of a known terrorist organization. 

Usually, immigrant visas are issued to foreign nationals that have existing connections with family members lawfully residing in the U.S. or with U.S. employers.  These types of relationships help ensure that immigrants entering our country have a stake in continuing America’s success.  However, under the visa lottery program, visas are awarded to immigrants at random with virtually no concern for education, job skills or family ties.

Moreover, the visa lottery program is unfair to immigrants who comply with the United States’ immigration laws.  For example, citizens of a number of countries including Mexico, the Philippines and the United Kingdom who wait years for visas are prohibited from participation in the visa lottery.  That means they watch as others bypass them by winning instant green cards under the lottery.  Also, the visa lottery program does not expressly prohibit illegal aliens from applying to receive visas through the program.  Thus, the program treats those who comply with our laws the same as those who blatantly violate our laws.  This sends the wrong message.

Furthermore, the visa lottery program is wrought with fraud.  A Center for Immigration Studies report states that foreign nationals commonly apply for the lottery program multiple times under many different aliases.  In addition, the visa lottery program has spawned a cottage industry featuring sponsors in the U.S. who falsely promise success to applicants for a large “fee.”  Ill-informed foreign nationals are willing to pay top dollar for the “guarantee” of lawful permanent resident status in the U.S. 

Just a few days ago I reintroduced legislation to eliminate the visa lottery program to help ensure our nation’s security and strengthen the integrity of our immigration laws.  The visa lottery is flawed policy and is foolish in the age in which we live.  Those in the world who wish us harm can easily engage in this statistical gamble with nothing to lose. Our immigration policy should be based primarily on our national security and economic needs, and not on arbitrary systems lacking basic safeguards.