The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) has always been, and will continue to be, a strong supporter of the Diversity Visa (DV) program. Yesterday, President Donald Trump called for an end to the DV program after singling out the perpetrator of Tuesday’s attack in New York City as a DV recipient. However, the DV program did not cause this senseless act of violence. President Trump’s opposition to the DV program is misguided and inappropriate.
The DV program was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. The DV program makes available 50,000 immigrant visas annually for individuals selected through a lottery process. All DV applicants must: (1) meet certain requirements; (2) successfully complete a conventional, comprehensive Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application; (3) provide extensive, personal “supporting” documents; (4) undergo a medical examination; (5) complete an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate with an immigration officer; (6) report, at a minimum, their addresses, employment, passports, and all travel over the past 15 years; and (7) subject themselves and their immediate relatives to additional screening.
Additionally, DV lottery winners are subject to continuous and extensive background checks and vetting. The DV lottery winner vetting process is identical to all other immigrant visa application vetting processes conducted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Justice. DV winners do not get any special treatment in their vetting requirements and the suggestion that DV winners do not have to oblige by the same rules for vetting and security is ridiculous.
At any time in the DV application process, a DV selectee’s application can be discarded for any reason. Less than half of one percent of individuals that apply for a DV actually receive a Permanent Resident Card through the DV program. Even after receiving a DV, U.S. Customs and Border Protection still retain the right to deny admission into the U.S. to any D.V. recipient. The DV application process is very costly and time consuming.
DV recipients are usually from some of the poorest countries and hope to come to the U.S. to live the “American Dream.” Many are extraordinarily hard workers who consistently provide for themselves and their families. Additionally, DV applicants, in fulfilling an original purpose of the program, diversify communities and allow for unique individuals with dynamic perspectives to attend U.S. schools and work in U.S. business and organizations. The DV program not only supports the “American Dream” as it is understood by individuals, it also upholds the American principles of diversity, inclusion and progress.
A wide variety of individuals have received DVs. Some DV recipients are grocery store clerks, assembly line workers, and truck drivers, while others are professional actors and athletes. Notable DV winners include soccer player Freddy Adu, football player Zoltan Mesko, and civil rights attorney Carla Gericke.
ADC is currently litigating the U.S. State Department’s actions over this past year in unlawfully placing DV’s in administrative processing to make sure they would not be awarded to deserving applicants from the six countries identified in the Trump administration’s various Arab and Muslim travel bans. President Trump’s statements yesterday further show how his administration is attempting to go against established U.S. law to destroy the DV program. President Trump’s administration’s actions in this regard are extremely disturbing, heartless, ill-conceived and, in some cases, completely illegal.
Ultimately, President Trump’s call yesterday was misguided and inappropriate because it does not address any of the problems he wishes to attack. Instead, President Trump is criticizing a program that helps underprivileged individuals around the globe create better lives for themselves, their families, and their communities. ADC will continue to oppose President Trump’s calls for the ending of the DV program and will adamantly support DV recipients around the globe.
ADC Legal Director Abed Ayoub published an oped on this issue in The Hill, which can be read here. Additionally, ADC Staff Attorney Yolanda Rondon spoke on President Trump’s most recent comments about the DV program on Democracy Now this morning.