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Will Green Cards Be Cut in Half?

What could be more American? Enter a lottery, and win a chance at U.S. citizenship.

Sure, the likelihood of getting the Diversity Immigrant Visa is slim — about 0.3 percent. But 14 million applicants try to win one of about 50,000 spots in the Green Card lottery each year.

U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) (red tie) and Senator David Perdue (R-GA) (orange tie) unveil legislation to curb legal immigration by halving the number of green card lottery winners, Feb. 7, 2017.
U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) (red tie) and Senator David Perdue (R-GA) (orange tie) unveil legislation to curb legal immigration by halving the number of green card lottery winners, Feb. 7, 2017.


As of early February, though, the diversity visa is once again facing an uncertain future. Republican Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia proposed a bill ending it, in addition to dramatically cutting the number of other legal immigrants and refugees allowed every year.

A similar bill in the House of Representatives narrows the scope, only proposing to end the diversity visa.

The 22-year-old visa lottery has been threatened before in legislation sponsored by Republicans and Democrats as recently as last year. But it never became law.

Now with a Republican-controlled Congress and a president who has focused on immigration, the program is again at risk with the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act.

In a statement announcing the bill, the senators claimed it will “help raise American workers' wages.”

"We are taking action to fix some of the shortcomings in our legal immigration system," Perdue said. "Returning to our historically normal levels of legal immigration will help improve the quality of American jobs and wages."

Research has shown that the connection between jobs for Americans and immigration is tenuous. But there are other arguments against the lottery program.

For one, the program is susceptible to fraud, both by and against applicants, as the U.S. General Accountability Office found a decade ago.

The State Department improved the application to reduce the number of people who submit multiple applications in the same year, which is an automatic disqualification. Also, it alerts applicants that the lottery is free, and businesses charging a fee to submit lottery applications on applicants' behalf is illegal.

Natalie Pereira queues up to go through immigration control at Maiquetia airport in Caracas in 2014 before her move to the U.S. with her family after winning the Green Card lottery.
Natalie Pereira queues up to go through immigration control at Maiquetia airport in Caracas in 2014 before her move to the U.S. with her family after winning the Green Card lottery.


At its core, the diversity lottery was designed — as the name suggests — to diversify the immigrant stream to the U.S. from countries with lower immigration rates. When a country sends more than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. in five years, they are excluded from the eligibility list.

Natives of Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Peru, South Korea, the United Kingdom (excepting Northern Ireland), and Vietnam were excluded from the most recent round of applications.

For applicants who don’t have a family or employer sponsor in the U.S., or who aren’t refugees, the Green Card lottery is the only option.

The lottery is a small portion of immigration to the U.S. every year, but larger than employment-based immigrant visas. In Fiscal Year 2015, the U.S. issued about 48,000 diversity visas out of 531,000 immigrant visas.

Carolien Hardenbol, a diversity visa recipient from the Netherlands, moved to the U.S. in the late 1990s with her husband as new parents with advanced degrees and a sense of adventure. Uncertain they would be sponsored for permanent residency through work, they applied for the diversity lottery — and her husband won.

"I envisioned this big hat where these envelopes were drawn,” she joked.

What started as a volunteer position with Sanctuary for Families, a nonprofit organization in New York that provides legal services to victims of domestic violence and human trafficking, turned into a career for Hardenbol. After getting her legal permanent residency, she became co-director of the Immigration Intervention Project there.

"Without diversity there would be no United States of America," says Hardenbol.

Do fewer immigrants mean more jobs for Americans?

The bill’s announcement follows a series of executive orders by President Donald Trump targeting immigrants, which have been met with lawsuits and protests.

It also reflects the policy suggestions of some groups who want to restrict immigration. Reducing or ending the diversity visa has been a platform for groups who want reduce immigration to the U.S.

The RAISE Act calls for cuts in family preference visas, refugee admissions, and the diversity lottery, while only adding a new W visa, to allow the foreign-born parents of adult U.S. citizens to visit for renewable five-year periods, without a path to citizenship or work approval.

Some immigration supporters say the 50,000 visas could be better used.

Florida-based immigration attorney John Gihon supports ending the diversity lottery, but only in favor of making more family visas available and creating a different opportunity for highly trained immigrants.

“People with degrees in STEM subjects, medicine, nursing, etc, that we know will provide them with an opportunity to find work and contribute to the country should not be denied the green cards simply because there is currently no employer to sponsor them and give them a job,” says Gihon.

Tekleab Elos Hailu applied a few times before winning the lottery. The father of three is a native of Eritrea; his wife is Ethiopian. They applied for the lottery while he was on a graduate scholarship in the United Kingdom, following a conflict between their home countries in the late 1990s.

His first job in the U.S. was working security at a rental car company, though he eventually returned to academia, researching the experiences of fellow diversity lottery recipients and finishing his doctorate. He now works at a community college in Colorado.

Because of the education or work experience required by the lottery, and the needs to be able to apply - like access to the internet and the funds to pay for the eventual green card fees, health screening, and travel - he believes diversity immigrants generally come from relatively well-off positions in their home countries, and as such are a net positive for the U.S.

“They sacrifice what they have had in their own countries, just to bring to change for their children,” says Hailu. “On the other hand, the United States gains from people who have been educated, without spending any money on these people. So why would you [cut it]?”

The RAISE Act has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for review.

Follow legislative actions on S. 354 here here and H.R.1178 - SAFE for America Act here.

This story was first reported in VOANews.com. Do you have or want a Green Card? Please leave a comment here, and visit us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, thanks!

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Report: Number of college dropouts remains high

FILE - The name for the University of Southern California is displayed at a campus entrance in Los Angeles, April 16, 2024.
FILE - The name for the University of Southern California is displayed at a campus entrance in Los Angeles, April 16, 2024.

Enrollment in U.S. colleges and universities is increasing, but the number of dropouts remains high, according to a report in the Chronicle of High Education.

Amanda Friedman writes that more former students are returning to school, but many want shorter-term programs, such as certificate programs. (June 2024)

Xi wants more exchanges between US, Chinese universities

FILE - Chinese President Xi Jinping talks to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (not seen) at the Great Hall of the People, on April 26, 2024, in Beijing, China.
FILE - Chinese President Xi Jinping talks to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (not seen) at the Great Hall of the People, on April 26, 2024, in Beijing, China.

Mutual understanding between China and the United States can be improved by having more university exchanges between the two countries.

According to Bloomberg, Chinese President Xi Jinpin told Xinhua News Agency that exchanges could develop young ambassadors who understand both countries. (June 2024)

Students learn protests can affect job prospects

FILE - Students protesting against the war in Gaza, and passersby walking through Harvard Yard, are seen at an encampment at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., on April 25, 2024.
FILE - Students protesting against the war in Gaza, and passersby walking through Harvard Yard, are seen at an encampment at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., on April 25, 2024.

Some students in the U.S. are learning their public stances on the Israel-Hamas war are having an impact on job prospects.

Financial Times reports that protest activities are turning up in background checks, and employers have revoked employment offers to students as a result. (June 2024)

UCLA names new chancellor as campus is still reeling from protests over Israel-Hamas war

Dr. Julio Frenk, the next chancellor of UCLA, listens to questions at a news conference, June 12, 2024, in Los Angeles.
Dr. Julio Frenk, the next chancellor of UCLA, listens to questions at a news conference, June 12, 2024, in Los Angeles.

The president of the University of Miami was chosen Wednesday to become the next chancellor of the University of California, Los Angeles, where the retiring incumbent leaves a campus roiled by protests over Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza.

Dr. Julio Frenk, a Mexico City-born global public health researcher, was selected by regents of the University of California system at a meeting on the UCLA campus, where there were a swarm of security officers.

Frenk will succeed Gene Block, who has been chancellor for 17 years and announced his planned retirement long before UCLA became a national flashpoint for U.S. campus protests. This spring, pro-Palestinian encampments were built and cleared by police with many arrests, and again this week, there were more arrests.

Frenk has led the 17,000-student University of Miami since 2015 and previously served as dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and as Mexico's national health secretary, among other positions.

In a brief press conference, Frenk said he was approaching the appointment with excitement and humility.

"The first thing I plan to do is listen very carefully," Frenk said. "This is a complex organization. It is, as I mentioned, a really consequential moment in the history of higher education."

Frenk did not comment on specific protests at UCLA this spring or the current administration's response, which initially tolerated an encampment but ultimately used police to clear it and keep new camps from forming.

During public comment in the regents meeting, speakers criticized UC administrators, alleged police brutality, complained of a lack of transparency in UC endowments and called for divestment from companies with ties to Israel or in weapons manufacturing.

Speakers also talked about experiencing antisemitism on campus and called for an increased law enforcement response to protesters.

Later, about 200 people rallied, including members of an academic student workers union and the Faculty for Justice for Palestine group as well as students from other UC campuses. Participants held signs calling for charges to be dropped against protesters who have been arrested.

Block departs UCLA on July 31. Darnell Hunt, executive vice president and provost, will serve as interim chancellor until Frenk becomes UCLA's seventh chancellor on January 1, 2025.

In previous roles, Frenk was founding director of Mexico's National Institute of Public Health, held positions at the World Health Organization and the nonprofit Mexican Health Foundation, and was a senior fellow with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's global health program.

Frenk received his medical degree from the National University of Mexico in 1979. He then attended the University of Michigan, where he earned master's degrees in public health and sociology, and a joint doctorate in medical care organization and sociology.

Experts: US will have nearly 2 million international students by 2034

FILE - People line up outside McKale Memorial Center on the University of Arizona campus, Jan. 12, 2011, in Tucson, Ariz.
FILE - People line up outside McKale Memorial Center on the University of Arizona campus, Jan. 12, 2011, in Tucson, Ariz.

Experts predict the U.S. will enroll nearly 1.8 million international students by 2034, ICEF Monitor reports.

Most of the students will hail from India, along with China, Vietnam, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Nepal, Brazil and Mexico, the analysis says.

Read the story here. (May 2024)

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