Each year, hundreds if not thousands of Africans benefit from the annual U.S. visa lottery, a program through which individual winners can get an automatic Green Card, a pathway to U.S. citizenship.
Now, there are concerns that Africans may be the losers under the new U.S. immigration reform laws being debated in Washington.
Under the new bill, which, if passed, would be effective in 2017, the visa lottery would be replaced by a merit-based system that gives more points to applicants with higher academic degrees.
Some say the new merit-based system would reduce the number of African immigrants.
Reverend William K. Asari is pastor of the Royal Generation Ministries International Church and one of the leaders of the African-Caribbean Faith-based organization.
The group assists the African diaspora community with many immigration issues. Reverend Asari said Africans are concerned about their situation in the new immigration debate.
“The African and Caribbean communities, some of them are having problems changing their status to be able to get their Green Cards. Also, we were told that the government is trying to shut down the lottery from Africa,” he said.
Reverend Asari said some African immigrants seeking to bring older family members from Africa to the United States were also having a difficult time doing so.
In addition, he said, some attorneys retained by some African immigrants were overcharging for services.
“There was a lady who said she is trying to bring her two daughters and they also have children back home, and the attorney was telling the lady that you have to pay $850 for each person when another attorney said the price didn’t have to be that high. I think it’s like $400 and something. So I think her attorney was charging her twice the amount she was supposed to pay,” Asari said.
At a May 4 meeting in Washington, called by the African and Caribbean immigrant community, representatives from the Obama White House briefed the community on the new immigration reforms being debated.
On the proposal to change the visa lottery to a merit-based system that would give more points to applicants with higher academic degrees, Asari said the African immigrant community would like keep the visa lottery in its current form to give everyone an equal chance of immigrating to the United States.
“These are some of the things that our organization is fighting against because in this country we all believe in equal rights. So, if we believe in equal rights, then either you have been to school or not, we all have to be able to enjoy equal rights and equal benefits,” Asari said.