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Protecting our national security

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By Congressman Bob Goodlatte

What if I told you that every year the U.S. government holds a national immigration ‘lottery’ by which 50,000 individuals become legal permanent residents of the U.S. purely at random and that since 1995 nearly one million visas have been handed out through this program. Most of my constituents are shocked to learn that such a program exists.

The visa lottery program threatens national security, results in the unfair administration of our immigration laws, and encourages a cottage industry for fraudulent opportunists. In fact, many of our embassies around the globe have been forced to put fraud warnings on their websites regarding this controversial program. Even the governmental agency which oversees the visa lottery program feels it is necessary to warn people about the amount of fraud in the program.

That is why I have reintroduced bipartisan legislation, the Security and Fairness Enhancement (SAFE) for America Act, which would eliminate the visa lottery program, thereby helping to ensure our nation’s security while making the administration of our immigration laws more consistent and fair.

Usually, immigrant visas are issued to foreign nationals who have an existing connection with a family member lawfully residing in the United States or with a U.S. employer. These types of relationships help to ensure that immigrants entering the country have a stake in our nation’s continued success, and have needed skills to contribute to our nation’s economy. However, under the visa lottery program, visas are awarded to immigrants at random without meeting such criteria.

The visa lottery program’s threat to our national security is very real. The visa lottery allows any potential terrorist who might “win the lottery” to live in the U.S. freely and come and go with very little scrutiny.

In 2002, two aliens from Morocco were indicted as members of an alleged terrorist sleeper cell in Michigan. Both had been admitted to this country as lottery winners. One was convicted of conspiring to provide material support or resources to terrorists and the other was convicted of possessing false documents. That same year a Pakistani national pleaded guilty to conspiring to destroy electrical power stations, the Israeli consulate and other targets in South Florida. He entered the U.S. with his parents who had won the visa lottery.

The visa lottery program represents what is wrong with our country’s immigration system and is a national security threat. The nature of the lottery is such that we have no control over who applies for admission to our country. This flawed policy is just 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 needs; security and economics and not in part on an arbitrary system, lacking sufficient checks.