On October 31, 2017, eight people were killed and eleven injured in lower Manhattan at the hands of a suspected terrorist who drove a rental truck into a bike path. The suspect was identified as 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov. Saipov was born in Uzbekistan and has lived in Ohio, Florida, and New Jersey. In 2010, he became a permanent resident of the United States with a green card under the Diversity Visa Program.
The Diversity Visa Program (DV Program) is a lottery based program where 50,000 immigrants annually are drawn from a random selection to receive permanent residence status in the U.S., specifically those that had sent less than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. in the previous five years. The program required that every immigrant selected was to undergo extensive background checks and interviews before being granted permanent residency under the DV program.
The DV Program was first established in 1990 but did not take full effect until 1995. It offers a limited number of visas to people from other countries that rarely enter the U.S. In order to qualify for the program, applicants must have a high school education or two years in an occupation that requires formal training.
In the end, the DV Program allows those chosen, as well as their children and spouse, to enter the U.S. with permanent residency and almost no strings attached. While this program is completely randomized, nearly 8 million people applied for the program in 2016.
On November 1, 2017, in response to the terrorist attacks, President Trump called for an end to the DV Program. Mr. Trump is blaming the program for the cause of the attack. In a Cabinet meeting on November 1, 2017, Mr. Trump stated, “I am today starting the process of terminating the diversity lottery program. It sounds nice. It’s not nice. It’s not good.”
In an effort to stop the rate of terrorism in the U.S., Mr. Trump is declaring that immigration status be determined based on merit instead of lottery systems. Mr. Trump would eliminate the DV Program and cap the number of refugees offered permanent residency to 50,000 a year. He proposes that the merit-based immigration system should favor candidates that have an English-language ability, high-paying employment offers and entrepreneurial initiative. Mr. Trump has also ordered that the Department of Homeland Security increase its “extreme vetting program” to remove suspected terrorists.
Many immigrants are concerned that Mr. Trump will cut the program that has brought so much freedom to many immigrants. According to the Washington Post, Ermais Amirat, an Ethiopian Lottery winner stated, “in my country, whole cities wait to hear the results of this lottery.” Since many of the countries involved in the DV Program are African and Caribbean countries, they are likely to be most affected if the program gets cut. For these immigrants, the DV Program is their only way to achieve permanent residency in the U.S.
State Department officials believe that the DV Program is rigorous, as about half of the applicants chosen will be disqualified. In 2017, 105,000 immigrants were chosen to receive DV Program benefits out of the 7.9 million applications received. In the end, only 55,000 final visas were issued. While the DV Program is based on a randomized lottery, it is still being highly monitored as to not let dangerous immigrants into the U.S.
While most of the DV Program “winners” are ordinary people who are saved from poor or troubled countries, others become stars. For example, Freddy Adu, a soccer prodigy from Ghana, came to the U.S. in 1997 with his mother who won the lottery. Adu went on to become one of the youngest players and top scorers in Major League Soccer. Adu now plays for a team in Brazil after competing many years with D.C. United. Whether these immigrants are ordinary people or become major league soccer stars, they are all enjoying lives that they could have only dreamed about in their home countries. The DV Program gives these dreaming immigrants a chance.
If you have any questions about how these possible changes might affect you or a family member, speak to a knowledgeable and concerned attorney at Bretz & Coven, LLP. We’re determined to see that you receive every advantage under the law. Call the New York immigration law attorneys today at (212) 267-2555 or fill out our contact form to schedule a confidential appointment.