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What is The Diversity Visa Program?

In light of the tragic attack in New York City this week by Sayfullo Saipov, Trump has called for the end of the Diversity Visa program (the immigration program that allowed Saipov to immigrate to the U.S).

In typical Trump fashion, Trump continues to lead through fear, which has the terrible effect of undermining any rational, fact-driven policy discussion on a particular issue.  These types of fear-driven, simplified positions are particularly frustrating because they completely ignore the benefits of a particular policy or system.

How it Started

As a starting point, let’s take a look at the Diversity Visa Program. The program came into effect under the George H.W. Bush (Bush Sr.) administration as part of the Immigration Act of 1990. The program is a lottery system that allocates up to 50,000 visas annually to people from countries that are underrepresented in the U.S. (countries that have historically low rates of immigration to the U.S.). To qualify for the lottery, a person must have either a high school education or two years of work experience in a technical field. Because many of these individuals come from less developed countries, these educational/experience requirements are actually quite substantial and analogous to individuals with college degrees in developed countries.

The Value of Diversity

The stated goal of the program is to create more diversity in our immigration system. This goal is really quite noble since it recognizes the fact that a culturally diverse immigration population has benefited this country greatly, and really is (or was) a founding principle of this country. The number, like all numerical limits in our immigration system, was determined by a policy discussion about how many new immigrants are beneficial to this country each year.

There has been criticism of the program in the past, based on its somewhat random nature, and arguments that these visas should be allocated to other categories within our immigration system.

For more information on the Diversity Lottery system, see below:

Photo by Cory Schadt