Today Congressman Lamar Smith, Ranking Member of the House Committee on the Judiciary, and Congressman Bob Goodlatte, Vice-Ranking Member of the House Committee on the Judiciary, sent a letter to the Chairman of the committee, Congressman John Conyers, urging the committee to consider legislation eliminating the annual visa lottery. Each year there is a national immigration "lottery' by which 50,000 aliens may become legal permanent residents of the U.S. To participate in the program, a person has to come from a country that does not send many immigrants to the United States. State sponsors of terrorism are not excluded from this program.
Recent events have made it clear that the U.S. needs to be more closely scrutinizing individuals entering the U.S. Amazingly, included in the visa lottery are countries the U.S. considers to be state sponsors of terror -- Iran, Sudan, Cuba, and Syria -- and 13 of the 14 nations that are coming under the Transportation Security Administration's crack down on airport security, including Nigeria, where the terrorist who attempted to blow up a flight over Detroit on Christmas Day was from.
"The visa lottery program poses a national security threat. Under the program, each successful applicant is chosen at random and given the status of permanent resident based on pure luck," Rep. Goodlatte said. "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 is a dangerous game with our national security. America already has the most generous immigration policy in the world, admitting over one million legal immigrants each year. But under the current lottery system, up to 50,000 randomly selected alien applicants win visas each year, many from countries with a significant terrorist presence. We should end this dangerous game for the sake of our national security" said Rep. Smith.
In 2007, the GAO issued a report that said that the visa lottery "is vulnerable to fraudulent activity committed by and against applicants " The same report said that "widespread use of fake documents, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, and passports, presented challenges when verifying the identities of applicants and dependents."
In addition, during the 109th Congress the State Department IG testified before Congress that the visa lottery "contains significant risks to national security from hostile intelligence officers, criminals and terrorists attempting to use the program for entry into the U.S. as permanent residents." Unfortunately, the House Committee on the Judiciary has not held hearings on this subject since Democrats took control of Congress in 2006.
"The nature of the lottery is such that we have no control over who applies for admission to our nation," Goodlatte continued. "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."
Congressman Goodlatte introduced the Visa Lottery Elimination Act on May 7, 2009, and it has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee, on which Congressman Goodlatte serves as Vice Ranking Member.