The Visa Lottery... A Flawed Immigration Policy
DATE: March 18, 2005
Each year there is a national immigration 'lottery' by which approximately 50,000 aliens become legal permanent residents of the U.S. Each successful applicant is chosen at random and given permanent resident status based on pure luck. Usually, immigrant visas are issued to foreign nationals that have an existing connection with a family member lawfully residing in the United States or with a U.S. employer. However, under the visa lottery program, visas are awarded to immigrants at random without regard to such criteria.
Last week, I reintroduced legislation to eliminate the visa lottery program, to help ensure our nation's security, while making the administration of our immigration laws more consistent and fair. Last Congress, a House Judiciary Subcommittee held an eye-opening hearing on the problems with the visa lottery program, which revealed that many specific terrorism-related offenses in the U.S. have occurred at the hands of those who have benefited from the visa lottery.
One such case was that of Hesham Mohamed Ali Hedayet, the Egyptian national who killed two and wounded three during a shooting spree at L.A. International Airport in July 2002. He was allowed to apply for lawful permanent resident status because of his wife's status as a visa lottery winner, despite his own admission to the INS that he had been accused by the Egyptian government of being a member of a known terrorist organization.
In a September 2003 report, the State Department's Inspector General stated that the visa lottery program contains "significant threats to national security from entry of hostile intelligence officers, criminals, and terrorists into the United States as permanent residents."
The visa lottery program is also wrought with fraud. The report also confirms that the lottery is "subject to widespread abuse," specifically finding that 364,000 duplicate applications were detected in 2003 alone.
In addition, the visa lottery program has spawned a cottage industry featuring sponsors in the U.S. who falsely promise success to applicants in exchange for large sums of money. Ill-informed foreign nationals are often willing to pay top dollar for the 'guarantee' of lawful permanent resident status.
Furthermore, the lottery is unfair to immigrants who comply with our laws in that it does not prohibit illegal aliens from applying to receive a visa through the program, thereby treating foreign nationals that comply with our laws in the same manner as those that blatantly violate them.
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.