Reforming our flawed immigration policies

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By Congressman Bob Goodlatte

Amazingly each year there is a national immigration ‘lottery’ by which approximately 50,000 foreign nationals receive 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.


The State Department’s Inspector General has even weighed in on the national security threat posed by the visa lottery program. During testimony before the House Committee on the Judiciary, the Office of Inspector General stated that the Office “continues to believe that the diversity visa program contains significant risks to national security from hostile intelligence officers, criminals, and terrorists attempting to use the program for entry into the United States as permanent residents.”


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, Canada, India 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.


Recently 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 House Judiciary Committee, on which I serve, has announced they will hold a hearing on my legislation in the coming weeks. The visa lottery is flawed policy and is foolish in the age in which we live.  Our immigration policy should not be based on arbitrary systems lacking basic safeguards.


To contact me about this or any other matter, please visit my website at www.goodlatte.house.gov.