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National Security Threat, Fraud and Abuse Associated with VISA Lottery Program

Location: Washington, DC


The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Goodlatte) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to discuss a government program that presents a serious national security threat and is wrought with fraud and abuse, the visa lottery program.

Under the program, each successful applicant is chosen at random and given the status of permanent resident, a green card holder, based on pure luck. A perfect example of the system gone awry is the case of Hesham Mohamed Ali Hedayet, the Egyptian national who killed two and wounded three during a shooting spree at the Los Angeles International Airport in July of 2002. He was allowed to apply for lawful permanent resident status in 1997 because of his wife's status as a visa lottery winner.

The State Department's Inspector General has even weighed in on the national security threat posed by the visa lottery program. In a report issued in September of 2003, the Office of 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."

Usually immigrant visas are issued to foreign nationals who have existing connections with family members lawfully residing in the United States. These types of relationships help ensure that immigrants entering our country have a stake in continuing America's 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.

In addition, the visa lottery program is unfair to immigrants who comply with the United States' immigration laws. The visa lottery program does not expressly prohibit illegal aliens from applying to receive visas through the program. Thus the program treats foreign nationals that comply with our laws the same as those that blatantly violate our laws. In addition, most family-sponsored immigrants currently face a wait of years to obtain visas. Yet the lottery program pushes 50,000 random immigrants with no particular family ties, job skills, or education ahead of these families and employer-sponsored immigrants each year with relatively no wait. This sends the wrong message to those who wish to enter our great country and to the international community as a whole.

Furthermore, the visa lottery program is wrought with fraud. A recent report released by the Center for Immigration Studies states that it is commonplace for foreign nationals to apply for the lottery program multiple times using 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 in exchange for large sums of money. Ill-informed foreign nationals are willing to pay top dollar for the "guarantee" of lawful permanent resident status in the U.S.

The State Department's Office of Inspector General confirms these allegations of widespread fraud in its September report. Specifically, the report states that the visa lottery program is "subject to widespread abuse" and that "identity fraud is endemic and fraudulent documents are commonplace." Furthermore, the report also reveals that the State Department found that 364,000 duplicate applications were detected in 2003 alone. The only penalty for such abuse is disqualification from that year's lottery.

The visa lottery program represents what is wrong with our country's immigration system. The serious national security threats, fraud and waste that the visa lottery program present beg the question why is this program still in existence?

Last February I introduced H.R. 775, the Security and Fairness Enhancement, or SAFE, for America Act.

This important legislation would eliminate the controversial visa lottery program. Not only will the removal of the visa lottery improve our Nation's security but it will also make the administration of our immigration laws more consistent and fair and help reduce immigration fraud and opportunism.

I urge each of my colleagues to support this important legislation.

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