The October 31st NYC Attack and the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program

November 03, 2017 - Suyash S. Raiborde

As many mourn the loss of the victims of the October 31st NYC attack, a parallel conversation surrounding immigration reform has emerged. Immigration reform has been President Trump’s long-standing campaign promise, but has found fierce judicial opposition since January. We have covered these developments in prior posts.

As details emerged regarding the suspect in the NYC attack, the Administration directly attacked the rarely-discussed Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, or the “diversity lottery.” Based on available information, the suspect in the NYC attack entered the United States from Uzbekistan on a diversity visa in 2010, and subsequently became a permanent resident, i.e., green card holder.

The diversity lottery was created in 1990, and issues up to 50,000 visas each year from a specified list of countries that are traditionally underrepresented in the United States. Applicants from these specified countries may register for the lottery at no cost. Thereafter, the Department of State randomly selects applicants from the pool based on the allocations of available visas in each region and country.

The Department of State has published its 2015 statistics for the selected entrants under the lottery. Some of the most represented countries under this program by region include Egypt, Cameroon, Cambodia, Iran, Russia, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Australia, Fiji, Cuba and Paraguay. The complete data set may be accessed here.

The unique aspect of this program is that unlike DACA, which was a result of executive action by President Obama, the diversity lottery is legislation passed by Congress, and therefore, Congress will have to act to amend or eliminate the program. Republican Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue have introduced a bill that would eliminate the diversity lottery.

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