Each year, 50,000 people are selected at random to immigrate to the United States. They don’t need specialized job skills or even a relative in the United States. What they need most is a little luck, some basic educational or work training qualifications, and to be from a country with few recent immigrants living in the U.S.
The Diversity Visa, better known as the “Green Card Lottery,” is a little-known program inside America, but is played by millions of people worldwide each year. It was established in 1990 to diversify the immigration population in the U.S., designed, in part, to help more Irish settle in the United States.
Over the past two decades though, the complexion of lottery winners has become noticeably darker. Today, about half of visa winners come from Africa.
The immigration bill making its way through the Senate would put an end it to the Diversity Visa.
That prospect has sparked some anger among Africans living in the U.S., as well as the Congressional Black Caucus. They say if Africans aren’t fairly represented in the immigration overhaul, they’ll torpedo the bill.
Without the Diversity Visa, Africans like Dominic Tamin would’ve likely never made it to the U.S. Tamin’s father won the Green Card Lottery in the 1990’s, and Tamin came to New York from Cameroon on January 18, 1997.
“That’s when I arrived here. I remember because it was so cold outside. I’d never experienced that cold weather before.”
Tamin is now a high school math teacher and entrepreneur in Newark, N.J. He talks about the high number of African immigrants who work in the healthcare fields, in nursing and in-home caregiving. He’s active in the movement to save the Green Card Lottery.
“It’s something that is dear to my heart. I don’t know how to put this, because I’m so passionate about it.”
So, he decided to express his passion through music. He recently produced this song, “DV Lottery” sung by the artist MayJa Money.
This argument, though, isn’t convincing most leaders in Congress. Many Democrats have quietly turned their backs on the Diversity Visa, giving it up as a bargaining chip.
Republicans, like Congressman Bob Goodlatte from Virginia, have been more outspoken against it. Goodlatte’s office turned down an interview request, but he spoke against the Diversity Visa on the House floor last year.
In his floor speech, Goodlatte describes the Diversity Visa as “unfair to people from more than a dozen countries around the world that stand in long lines, on waiting lists, and then watch somebody have their name drawn out of a computer at random with no particular job skills, no ties to this country, and they get to go right past them into a Green Card and into the United States.”
Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, a think tank that advocates for less immigration to the U.S., agrees with that. He said the Green Card Lottery is ripe for fraud, and that terrorists could steal a winning lottery number and enter the U.S. illegally.