Diversity Visas

Over the past several months, the House Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement has conducted several hearings where some members have questioned the value of most types of immigration, including legal avenues. Last week, the Subcommittee saw to diversity visas, a program that provides 50,000 green cards annually by lottery to persons from countries that currently do not send many immigrants to the United States. This category in immigration policy was created by the Immigration Act of 1990 to stimulate “new seed” immigration from parts of the world that are under-represented in the U.S. Today, the program plays an important role in helping people from African nations immigrate to this country, and contributes about 4.8% of the total permanent immigration to the U.S.

Unfortunately some of the Subcommittee members with prejudiced views used the hearing as an opportunity to perpetuate the myth that all immigrants are stealing jobs from native-born workers, with others voicing their unsubstantiated beliefs that diversity immigrants are uneducated or have few skills. Fortunately, though, the hearing had a number of levelheaded members present. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), being one of them, fought back against some of the comments made, stating: “In 2003 the State Department described a typical diversity visa recipient as a male professional age 26 to 30 holding a university degree… diversity immigrants were two and a half times more likely to report managerial or professional occupations than other lawful permanent residents in fiscal year 2009.” Rep. Lofgren, who is the Chairwoman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Citizenship, Refugees, Immigration, and Border Security, is of the opinion that our broken immigration system can only be fixed with the adequate amount of border security, law enforcement, family unification programs, and a pathway to legal status for those who currently live in the shadows.

While a plethora of questions could be asked about immigration, proposing the elimination of a class of visas without looking at the broader issues inevitably pits groups of immigrants and natives against each other. These Subcommittee hearings should not be about how to eliminate the system, they should be focused on how to improve it instead.

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