Today Congressman Bob Goodlatte reintroduced the Security and Fairness Enhancement (SAFE) for America Act, which would eliminate the controversial visa lottery program from the Immigration and Nationality Act, thereby helping to ensure our nation's security while making the administration of our immigration laws more consistent and fair.
Each year there is a national immigration "lottery' by which 50,000 aliens may become legal permanent residents of the U.S.
"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," 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."
An example of the system gone awry, and thereby posing a security threat, is the case of Hesham Mohamed Ali Hedayet, the Egyptian national who killed two and wounded three during a shooting spree at Los Angeles International Airport in July of 2002. Hedayet was a beneficiary of the immigration lottery. He and his family earned permanent resident status after his wife won the federal visa lottery, despite Hedayet's own admission to the INS that he had been accused by the Egyptian government 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."
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 and other false personal information. 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 in the U.S.
"The visa lottery program is unfair to immigrants who comply with the United States' immigration laws," Goodlatte said. "The visa lottery program does not prohibit illegal aliens from applying to receive a visa 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 a visa, yet the visa lottery program pushes 50,000 random immigrants with no particular family ties, job skills or education, ahead of these family and employer-sponsored immigrants each year with relatively no wait. This sends the wrong message to those desiring entry into United States and to the international community at-large."
The visa lottery actually discriminates against law-abiding citizens of a number of countries including Mexico, the Philippines, Canada, India and the United Kingdom who wait years for visas but are prohibited from participation in the visa lottery and then watch as others bypass them by winning instant green cards under the lottery.
"The nature of the lottery is such that we have no control over who applies for admission to our country," 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. Our immigration policy should be based primarily on our national needs; security and economics and not in part on an arbitrary system, lacking even cursory checks."
The SAFE for America Act has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee, on which Congressman Goodlatte serves as a senior member, for further consideration.