SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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DIVERSITY VISA PROGRAM
SUBCOMMITTEE ON IMMIGRATION,
BORDER SECURITY, AND CLAIMS
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED NINTH CONGRESS
JUNE 15, 2005
Serial No. 10949
Printed for the use of the Committee on the Judiciary
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Available via the World Wide Web: http://www.house.gov/judiciary
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, Jr., Wisconsin, Chairman
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
LAMAR SMITH, Texas
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio
DANIEL E. LUNGREN, California
WILLIAM L. JENKINS, Tennessee
CHRIS CANNON, Utah
SPENCER BACHUS, Alabama
BOB INGLIS, South Carolina
JOHN N. HOSTETTLER, Indiana
MARK GREEN, Wisconsin
RIC KELLER, Florida
DARRELL ISSA, California
JEFF FLAKE, Arizona
MIKE PENCE, Indiana
J. RANDY FORBES, Virginia
STEVE KING, Iowa
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCTOM FEENEY, Florida
TRENT FRANKS, Arizona
LOUIE GOHMERT, Texas
JOHN CONYERS, Jr., Michigan
HOWARD L. BERMAN, California
RICK BOUCHER, Virginia
JERROLD NADLER, New York
ROBERT C. SCOTT, Virginia
MELVIN L. WATT, North Carolina
ZOE LOFGREN, California
SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas
MAXINE WATERS, California
MARTIN T. MEEHAN, Massachusetts
WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
ROBERT WEXLER, Florida
ANTHONY D. WEINER, New York
ADAM B. SCHIFF, California
LINDA T. SÁNCHEZ, California
CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, Maryland
DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, Florida
PHILIP G. KIKO, Chief of Staff-General Counsel
PERRY H. APELBAUM, Minority Chief Counsel
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSubcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims
JOHN N. HOSTETTLER, Indiana, Chairman
STEVE KING, Iowa
LOUIE GOHMERT, Texas
LAMAR SMITH, Texas
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia
DANIEL E. LUNGREN, California
JEFF FLAKE, Arizona
BOB INGLIS, South Carolina
DARRELL ISSA, California
SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas
HOWARD L. BERMAN, California
ZOE LOFGREN, California
LINDA T. SÁNCHEZ, California
MAXINE WATERS, California
MARTIN T. MEEHAN, Massachusetts
GEORGE FISHMAN, Chief Counsel
ART ARTHUR, Counsel
LUKE BELLOCCHI, Full Committee Counsel
CINDY BLACKSTON, Professional Staff
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCNOLAN RAPPAPORT, Minority Counsel
C O N T E N T S
JUNE 15, 2005
The Honorable John N. Hostettler, a Representative in Congress from the State of Indiana, and Chairman, Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims
The Honorable Bob Goodlatte, a Representative in Congress from the State of Virginia
The Honorable Sheila Jackson Lee, a Representative in Congress from the State of Texas, and Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims
The Honorable Bruce A. Morrison, Chairman, Morrison Public Affairs Group, former Member of Congress
The Honorable Howard J. Krongard, Inspector General, U.S. Department of State and the Broadcasting Board of Governors
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Mr. Mark Krikorian, Executive Director, Center for Immigration Studies
Ms. Rosemary Jenks, Director of Government Relations, NumbersUSA
Material Submitted for the Hearing Record
Prepared Statement of the Honorable Bob Goodlatte, a Representative in Congress from the State of Virginia, and Member, Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims
Prepared Statement of the Honorable Sheila Jackson Lee, a Representative in Congress from the State of Texas, and Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims
DIVERSITY VISA PROGRAM
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCWEDNESDAY, JUNE 15, 2005
House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Immigration,
Border Security, and Claims,
Committee on the Judiciary,
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 4:04 p.m., in Room 2141, Rayburn House Office Building, the Honorable John Hostettler (Chairman of the Subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. Good afternoon. Today the Subcommittee will examine the Diversity Visa or ''DV'' program. At this hearing, we will review the history of the program and its implementation.
The DV program, part of the Immigration Act of 1990, was designed to increase diversity in the U.S. immigrant population by providing visas to nationals of countries that have had low immigration rates to the United States. Applicants for the DV program participate in a lottery in which the winners are selected through a computer-generated random drawing. Annually, approximately 50,000 aliens enter under the program.
The program is not without its critics however. Some experts have argued that the program is susceptible to fraud and manipulation. For example, critics have asserted that it is common for aliens to file multiple applications for the lottery to improve their chances of winning. In reviewing the DV program in September 2003, the State Department Inspector General found that ''identity fraud is endemic, and fraudulent documents are commonplace.''
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Such fraud would be necessary if aliens were to file multiple applications under various aliases to improve their chances in the lottery. If selected under an alias, the alien would have to obtain and use fake documents to support his visa application. In addition to, and in part because of, concerns about fraud in the DV program, critics have argued that the program poses a danger to our national security. As one expert who testified on this subject last year said: ''The lottery is ideal for terrorists because it encourages immigration from those parts of the world where . . . fraud is common, documents are difficult to verify, and al-Qaeda is very active.''
The lack of restrictions on admissions under the DV program has also been identified as a vulnerability that could be exploited by criminals and terrorists. It should be noted in this regard that almost 1,900 aliens from state sponsors of terrorism were selected in the DV 2005 lottery. From 1995 to 2003, 18 percent of Diversity Visa recipients were from countries of concern with respect to terrorism. Further, unlike other visa categories, aliens who enter the United States under the DV program do not need familial or business ties to our country. Such relationships logically make it more likely that immigrants entering our country have a stake in our country's success as well as skills to contribute to our economy.
For whatever reason, at least two aliens who have immigrated under the DV program have been tied to terrorism in the recent past. Hesham Hedayet, who killed two in an attack at LAX on July 4, 2002, got his green card under the program. In an asylum application that he had filed earlier, he had claimed that he had been accused of being a terrorist, a claim that the former INS never investigated.
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Similarly, a Pakistani national who pleaded guilty in August of 2002 to conspiracy to use arson or explosives to destroy electrical power stations in Florida entered under the DV program. Critics have further complained that the DV program unfairly moves lottery winners ahead of some family and employer-sponsored immigrants. Family fourth preference applicants from the Philippines must wait more than 22 years for a visa, for example, while DV winners can enter right away.
Finally, critics have questioned both the goals of the program and whether the program even accomplishes its goals. Last year, former INS Associate Commissioner Jan Ting testified that ''the lottery is unfair and expressly discriminatory on the basis of ethnicity, and implicitly, race'' and that it ''does not serve and is inconsistent with the priorities and best interests of the United States as otherwise expressed in our immigration laws.''
We will explore these issues with our witnesses today. I turn to the gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Goodlatte, for purposes of an opening statement.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate you holding this oversight hearing on the Diversity Visa program which is better known as the Visa Lottery Program. I want to thank you again but also point out that I have introduced legislation which the gentleman from Texas, Mr. Smith, has co-sponsored. It has now more than 30 co-sponsors. It is bipartisan. I am pleased that it has several Democratic co-sponsors, including Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth of South Dakota, who has agreed to be the lead Democratic co-sponsor. We are hopeful that this oversight hearing will lead to action being taken on this program, which I think is a security riskit is discriminatory. It is unfair to many immigrants who follow the lengthy process based on either having a family relationship or based upon having an offer of employment, a job skill that is needed in the United States. All of that is thrown aside by this program where millions of people submit their names. It is put into a computer with a very skimpy amount of information, and then 50,000 lucky people have their names drawn each year.
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We have given hundreds of thousands of these visas away. The State Department's Inspector General has identified this program as a national security risk. We have seen instances where people who have entered this country under the Visa Lottery Program have committed terrorist acts, for example at the El Al ticket counter in Los Angeles a few years ago, resulting in the deaths of two people on that occasion.
So it is my hope that we will hear today about this program and whether or not there is any justification for a program that ignores the fact that people from more than a dozen countries are not permitted to participate in this program. They are the folks who are on the longest waiting list, people from Mexico for example, China, India, the Philippines, other countries around the world, excluded from the program because they do not meet the criteria and are facing even longer waiting periods as a result of that, and then watch somebody come into the country with no particular job skills, no particular family reunification issue, nothing other than putting their name into a computer, having it drawn out and skipping ahead of people who have specific job skills to offer this country, skipping ahead of people who have very close family relationships, for example, people who are permanent residents of the United States and petitioning for their spouse or their children to be able to join them. All of them are discriminated against under this program and cannot enter the country in the rapid fashion that those who participate in this Visa Lottery Program do. It has become a cottage industry for fraudulent opportunists. It is simply based on pure luck and, as I indicated earlier, threatens the national security of the country.
I have a lengthy opening statement which I will not share with you in detail but rather simply ask be made a part of the record. And I yield back the balance of my time.
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Mr. HOSTETTLER. Without objection, all Members' opening statements will be made a part of the record.
At this time, I will introduce the panel.
Bruce Morrison is chairman of the Morrison Public Affairs Group which he founded in 2001. He advises on financial services, housing finance, privacy and immigration issues. From 1983 to 1991, Mr. Morrison represented the Third District of Connecticut in the House of Representatives. While in Congress, he served on the Committee on the Judiciary where he chaired this Subcommittee, the Subcommittee on Immigration.
After leaving Congress, Mr. Morrison served from 1992 to 1997 on the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform. Mr. Morrison is a graduate of Yale Law School and holds a Bachelors degree in chemistry from MIT and a Master's degree in organic chemistry from the University of Illinois.
Howard Krongard serves as the Inspector General for the Department of State and the Broadcasting Board of Governors. In this position, he acts as an independent reviewer and evaluator of the State Department's operations and activities domestically and abroad in 163 countries. From 1996 to 2005, he was of counsel to Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, an international law firm, and, before that worked for several legal and financial firms. Mr. Krongard graduated from Princeton University, where he majored in history and served as class president. He also graduated with honors from Harvard Law School.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mark Krikorian is the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a research organization in Washington, D.C., that examines the impact of immigration on the United States.
Mr. Krikorian, who frequently testifies before Congress, has published articles in the Washington Post, the New York Times and the National Review, among other publications. Mr. Krikorian hold a Master's degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and a bachelor's degree from Georgetown University.
Rosemary Jenks is the director of government relations for NumbersUSA. She has been active in immigration since 1990, acting as an independent immigration consultant and as director of policy analysis at the Center For Immigration Studies. Ms. Jenks, who has testified before the House and Senate Immigration Subcommittees, has written several articles and journals and co-authored two books. Ms. Jenks received her J.D. From Harvard Law School and B.A. in political science from The Colorado College.
I want to thank all of the witnesses for once again being here today. You will notice we have a series of lights. And without objection, your full opening statement will be made part of the record. If you could summarize within the 5-minute time period we would be much appreciative.
Mr. Morrison, you are recognized for 5 minutes.
TESTIMONY OF THE HONORABLE BRUCE A. MORRISON, CHAIRMAN, MORRISON PUBLIC AFFAIRS GROUP, FORMER MEMBER OF CONGRESS
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Mr. MORRISON. Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, it is a pleasure to be here, and I thank you for the opportunity to testify. I look forward to answering questions about the origin of this program, if Members have them, having been involved in its specific creation.
I would also like to note at the outset that it is important to look at this program as a piece of a much larger immigration enterprise. Some of the comments that have been made in opening statements would suggest that this program is supposed to carry within it all of the other goals of our immigration system, and it is obviously just one piece; and at that, in numerical terms, a small piece of the overall enterprise. So I look at it more in terms of what it is supposed to accomplish.
The idea of self-selected immigration is an old idea in American immigration. And in fact, for most of our history, immigrants came on a self-selected basis. And it was only in more recent times that sponsorship became the driving force for who would come. And even when sponsorship was given its central role in the 1965 act, the nonpreference category was created with the expectation that there would be significant numbers who would continue to come on a self-selected basis.
Unfortunately or otherwise, just one of the consequences of the large numbers of people who began to come under the 1965 act, the nonpreference category was soon unavailable and then eliminated. In the 1980's, various attempts were made to reinstate some kind of a program that looked to other sources rather than those who were sponsored by family or employers. And it ultimately gave rise to the diversity program as part of the 1990 act. Of course, that act did not just enact this program. It did significant things with respect to family immigration and with respect to employment-sponsored immigration. It was a piece of a whole, and it ought to be looked at that way.
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Obviously, if you are concerned about immigration, you think we have too many immigrants coming, you do not like our immigration system, Diversity Visas would be on the list of things that you might want to eliminate. On the other hand, if you think our immigration system on the whole, while it needs fixing in various ways, is a statement of success by the country, the number of people who aspire to come here and contribute to our success as a country and who in fact do contribute, then you would have a different reaction, I think, to this program.
The question ultimately is, has this program worked? And I think within the terms of its creation, the answer is yes. It was not intended to create diversity in the immigrant stream as a whole. It could not have possibly done so at the 50,000 number. It was intended to add another channel which would be opened to those who would not get to come, those countries which would not get to send immigrants under the family and employment programs because of the nature of how they work. And looked at in that way, the people who are coming to our country from different quarters of the world because of the Diversity Visa lottery, has demonstrated it is a different mix. And some of those things, I think, are important to focus on.
For most of our history, Africans were not able to immigrate to the United States. They came as slaves, or they hardly came at all. This program has opened the door to African immigration. I think that is a very good contribution to our country and to an understanding in our own population that the doors of this country are open to people everywhere in the world as long as they follow the rules and as long as there are numbers available. This is a legal immigration program. It is not a program of illegal immigration. It ought to be judged in those terms.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Another major source of people coming under this program now is Eastern Europe. Congress passed laws in the 1970s insisting that the countries of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union let people migrate. And people were not allowed to migrate to the United States, and special programs had to be created at that time to allow people to come. This program has opened the doors to countries from the former Soviet Union. And many of the immigrants are coming from there. Once again, a statement that we meant it when we said those people should be able to migrate.
There is no question that the IG has identified weaknesses in the program, and I think has made certain recommendations that ought to be considered for improving the program. But improving the program is different from abolishing it.
One last thing I would say is that the statement that this program is likely to be the source of a terrorist threat seems to me to be falling into the trap of seeing terrorists everywhere. The fact is that our 9/11 hijackers all got here using nonimmigrant entry opportunities. We have so much more important work to do in protecting the country by doing the job of screening people properly, of using intelligence information effectively, trying to manipulate a lottery seems to me to be a very low priority exercise for terrorists. They have much more direct ways to threaten us. That is where we ought to be focusing the terrorist concern.
If you do not like the program for all kinds of reasons, because of numbers, because of who it is, because of where it comes from, because you think everybody ought to be sponsored, I think those are legitimate debates. I think the introduction of terrorism into the debate kind of deflects the matter away from what ought to be focused upon.
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PREPARED STATEMENT OF BRUCE A. MORRISON
Chairman Hostettler, Congresswoman Jackson Lee, and Members of the Subcommittee:
Thank you for the opportunity to testify regarding the diversity visa program. As you know, I served as a Member of Congress from the Third District of Connecticut from the 98th Congress through the 101st (198391). Throughout my tenure in the House, I served on the Committee on the Judiciary. From 1989 to 1991, I was Chairman of this Subcommittee.
As the author of the House bill that became the Immigration Act of 1990, I was present at the creation of the diversity visa program. In my opinion, the Program has served the purposes for which it was created: providing a counterbalance to the concentration of source countries for immigrants that results from family and employment-based immigration; and creating an avenue for legal immigration from abroad for those without pre-existing family or employment relationships in the United States.
CONTEXT OF THE PROGRAM
For almost 50 years prior to 1965, U.S. immigration was governed by a set of country quotas that discriminated against source countries that had contributed relatively fewer natives to the U.S. population recorded in the 1910 census. The Immigration Act of 1965 sought to reform this situation through equal national quotas, family reunification principles, employment sponsorship, and a non-preference category for those lacking a family or employer sponsor. Like many major legislative initiatives, not all the consequences of the Act were anticipated.
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Among these consequences were:
Elimination of the non-preference category, due to over-subscription of higher preferences.
Growing backlogs in both family and employment preference categories, due to inadequate numbers of available visas to meet the demand.
Increasing concentration of source countries driven by family relationships, demographic trends, geography, refugee flows, and past migration patterns.
The Immigration Act of 1990 sought to address these issues in a variety of ways. For instance:
Family visa availability was increased, especially for spouses and minor children of lawful permanent residents (LPRs).
Employment visa availability was increased, especially for higher skilled workers.
Transitional and permanent diversity visa programs were created to augment the entering population with self-sponsored immigrants drawn from countries with relatively lower participation in the family- and employment-sponsored programs.
Demand to immigrate still outstrips the supply of visas, a continuing testament to the lure of the American Dream, but the intended priorities of the 1990 Act have shaped the immigration of the past 15 years.
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THE DIVERSITY VISAWHY HAVE IT?
Those who do not much like immigration will certainly not like the diversity visa program. It is grounded in the belief that immigration has contributed to the strength of the United States. It seeks to address some inherent weaknesses in relying solely on sponsorship of families and employers to provide our new immigrants.
* Sponsored immigration inherently leads to concentrations of nationalities among new immigrants mirroring those who have come most recently.
The pre-1965 de jure discrimination in favor of the nationalities of longest presence in the country has been replaced with a de facto discrimination in favor of the nationalities most recently arrived.
Both source countries from an earlier eraespecially Europeand for which there never was an era of free immigrationespecially Africaare beneficiaries of the diversity category.
Most employment-based, and many family-sponsored, immigrants are already in the country. The diversity program opens the door to those abroad to find a legal channel to immigrate.
The bulk of immigrant flows will always come from those places of close proximity, long immigrant history, or large population. However, the principle that all nationalities are welcome, subject to available numbers reflecting overall legislated limits, is at the heart of the definition of America. We are a nation defined by allegiance to democracy, human rights and equal opportunity, rather than a particular race, ethnicity, or religion.
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The broader the mix of nationalities that comes to define America, the better equipped America becomes to understand and relate to the diversity of the world abroad. There is no better antidote to the challenges of globalization than to attract the ''self-selected strivers'' from every corner of the globe.
In sum, the diversity visa is a pro-immigration program that underscores the reasons to support immigrationin manageable and managed numbers. It balances the limitations of a structure based only on family ties and established employment.
THE DIVERSITY VISAHAS IT WORKED?
The diversity visa program has done what it set out to do, and most of the objections to the existence of the program could as easily be leveled at other aspects of our immigrant and nonimmigrant admissions.
One need only glance at the chart on page 3 of the CRS Report (Immigration: Diversity Visa Lottery, Updated April 26, 2004) to see the contrast between source regions for diversity immigrants and those arriving through family or employer sponsorship.
This program has marked the first time in our history that Africans have been able to immigrate by choice in significant numbers.
During the Cold War, we berated the Warsaw Pact countries for denying emigration rights to their citizens. The diversity visa has actually allowed immigration from this region to resume.
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The need to administer the program has actually given rise to significant innovations in visa processing, such as the National Visa Center's consolidation of immigrant file processing and fee collections, and the application of facial recognition screening, that have benefited the immigration and security system as a whole.
When there are far easier means to acquire immigrant and nonimmigrant visas, or to enter with no visa at all, it is absurd to think that a lottery would be the vehicle of choice for terrorists. Security is important and attention should be focused on where the greater risks actually occur.
Illegal immigration is certainly a problem, but this one program does not significantly affect it. Opening legal doors for those not in the country rewards those who use legal channels. It is the ease of unauthorized employment that is at the heart of our illegal immigration problem.
Fraud is a potential problem in all programs that provide significant benefits. The remedy is to take steps to reduce the fraud, not eliminate the program.
Overall, the diversity visa program has provided benefits to the country in keeping with the principles that supported its creation. The focus should be on eliminating the weaknesses.
THE DIVERSITY VISACAN IT BE IMPROVED?
The real debate here is one of valuesdo we believe that the nation benefits when we show the whole world a path to join our two-century long project of building a nation based on democratic principles? Of course, the invitation is limited by our capacity to add people, by our need to protect our security, and by the necessity to select those who can contribute to our national well being. But all these goals can be pursued better with the diversity visa than without.
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Terrorists come from many places and carry many passports, not all legitimate. While little will be lost by excluding natives of the ''state sponsors of terrorism'' list, barring them will gain us little in the way of protection. It is the effective screening of individual applicants for all visas that needs attention.
While it seems unlikely that the lottery seduces illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S., especially after the expiration of Sec. 245(i) of the INA, a simple remedy would be to eliminate the right to adjust status on the basis of a diversity visa. This would require processing abroad, which would eliminate those with significant periods of unauthorized presence from eligibility. Further, it would be consistent with the emphasis on using the diversity visa to attract immigrants from abroad, rather than those already in the U.S.
New technology appears to address the multiple application abuse, and broader sanctions, including permanent exclusion form the program and application of the misrepresentation inadmissibility standard, are within the power of the State Department to implement.
There is a basis for enhancing the skill requirements for eligibility and to provide standards for meeting them.
It is hard to get exercised about uncovered costs of under $1 million annually. While collection of a small application fee might have some advantages, it hardly seems worth the administrative burden. A small increase in the fee for successful applicants seems much more viable.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Additional steps to fight document and credential fraud are certainly worth considering.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am happy to answer your questions and those of other Subcommittee members at the appropriate time.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. Thank you Mr. Morrison.
TESTIMONY OF THE HONORABLE HOWARD J. KRONGARD, INSPECTOR GENERAL, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE AND THE BROADCASTING BOARD OF GOVERNORS
Mr. KRONGARD. Thank you, Chairman Hostettler and Members of the Committee. I appreciate the opportunity to testify today regarding the Office of the Inspector General's work on the State Department's Diversity Visa program which is administered by the Bureau of Consular Affairs, which I will refer to for simplicity as CA.
As you likely know, the Senate just recently confirmed me, and I am recently new as the Inspector General. But I have been briefed on the OIG's work that resulted in our September 2003 report entitled, Diversity Visa Program, and on the testimony given here on the subject in April 2004 by then-Deputy Inspector General, Ambassador Anne Patterson.
Although OIG has not conducted another comprehensive review focused on the DV program, OIG monitors consular activities as part of tracking compliance with our report, conducting routine post inspections, and maintaining an ongoing dialogue with CA regarding DV issues.
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When our people are present at DV posts, the inspectors observe and inquire about revisions in the program's implementation. For example, one of our consular inspectors just recently visited the Kentucky Consular Center where DV applications are processed in conjunction with a broader inspection of CA. It was actually focused on the executive office of CA. Our 2003 report made eight recommendations, and all of those and our understanding of CA's responses are addressed in my statement for the record at more depth. Suffice it to say that OIG considers seven of the eight recommendations as closed or in the process of closure, and the one that is open related to multiple filings.
I should also point out that OIG's field work for the September 2003 work was conducted when the DV program was paper-based and applications were processed by hand. In November 2003, CA introduced an electronic filing process for the DV program, which is better known as the EDV program, requiring electronic application to be sent through the Internet. This permits computer screening of all principal applicants, spouses and children for violations of DV application rules. Therefore, the recommendations in the report were based on technologies and statistics that have been substantially modified, well before the introduction of program tools, such as computer data mining to detect duplicate entries, improved facial recognition technology, the use of electronic DV applications filed exclusively via the EDV program, and the recent increase in the DV fee, which is levied on winners at a level that we believe covers the full cost of the program.
Now with respect to the multiple applications, our review identified a significant number of duplicate applications in the DV program based on a completely paper process at that time. Currently, the penalty for duplicate entry is disqualification for the year that the duplicate submission is detected. It does not disqualify someone for future years. OIG recommended that CA propose changes to the Immigration and Nationality Act to bar permanently from future DV lotteries all adults identified as filing multiple applications. Under section 212(a)(6)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, persons are ineligible for a visa based on fraud or willful material misrepresentations.
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CA raised several concerns and amongst others were with the fairness and enforceability of the recommendation because it is difficult to prove that duplicate applications were either willful misrepresentations rather than inadvertent or were actually made by the applicant rather than by someone else to discredit or penalize the applicant. This recommendation remains open between OIG and CA. OIG flagged this recommendation again in a more recent review concerning the Consular Fraud Prevention Program, and we will continue to review the recommendation in light of improvements, new technologies and also any actions that the Congress may take.
Let me conclude on the fee issue. We think the fee issue is taken care of. So let me not address that and go to some conclusions. During the recent visit to the Kentucky Consular Center, our consular inspector determined that, with the electronic filing of DV applications now in its second year, all DV enrollment applications are checked for duplicates using anti-fraud technology. Duplicates found at this step are disqualified. Winning entries selected from the remaining applications are then checked for duplicate enrollment using facial recognition technology and biographical data comparison.
However, the potential for fraud does not end with identifying duplicates. The Kentucky Consular Center flags fraud indicators for adjudicating officers to address when winning applications are further processed in the field. Although EDV has not stopped duplicate filing, it has made identifying duplicate applications easier and helped the adjudicating officers have more effective interviews. As a result, CA is able to identify an increasing number of duplicates. OIG believes that continued advances in technology will increase detection of duplicates but will not stop them.
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In closing, OIG believes that the process of complying with the recommendations of our 2003 report, CA has strengthened the program. We will continue to monitor the program as we inspect their management of consular operations and individual posts abroad to oversee and assist the State Department in improving border security and program management.
Thank you, sir, and I welcome at the appropriate time any questions you may have.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Krongard follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF HOWARD J. KRONGARD
Chairman Hostettler, Representative Jackson Lee, and Members of the Subcommittee:
I appreciate the opportunity to testify today regarding the Office of Inspector General's (OIG) work on the State Department's Diversity Visa program, which is administered by the Bureau of Consular Affairs (CA). As you likely know, the Senate confirmed me last month as the new Inspector General (IG). Although OIG has been without a permanent IG for the past two years, OIG has been a valuable contributor in reducing fraud in visa and passport applications and strengthening the nation's border security.
I have been briefed on OIG's work that resulted in a September 2003 report entitled Diversity Visa Program (ISP-CA-03-52). I also have been briefed on the testimony delivered on this subject in April 2004 by Ambassador Anne Patterson, who was OIG's Deputy Inspector General at the time, and on actions taken by CA to address OIG's recommendations.
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In her testimony, Ambassador Patterson stated that OIG would examine how vulnerabilities in the program will be fully addressed. Although OIG has not conducted another comprehensive review focused on the Diversity Visa program, OIG monitors consular activities as part of tracking compliance with our report, conducting routine post inspections, and maintaining an ongoing dialogue with CA concerning Diversity Visa issues. When present at Diversity Visa posts, OIG observes and inquires about revisions in the program's implementation. For example, last month one of our consular inspectors visited the Kentucky Consular Center, where Diversity Visa applications are processed, in conjunction with a broader inspection of CA. Our 2003 report made eight recommendations, and today, I will review those recommendations and our understanding of how CA responded.
In fiscal year 1995, Congress established the Diversity Visa program that authorized up to 50,000 immigrant visas annually to persons from countries that were underrepresented among the 400,000 to 500,000 immigrants coming to the United States each year. Most immigration to the United States is based on family relationships or employment. Diversity Visa applicants, however, can qualify based on education level and/or work experience. This program commonly is referred to as the ''visa lottery'' because the ''winners'' are selected through a computer-generated random drawing. If ultimately selected as a lottery winner, like other immigrant applicants, they are subject to all grounds of ineligibility related to adverse medical conditions, criminal behavior, and other factors. If deemed eligible on those grounds, they need only to demonstrate that they have the equivalent of a U.S. high school education or possess two years of work experience in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience within the five-year period immediately prior to the application.
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Originally, the Diversity Visa program was one of many immigrant visa functions assigned to the National Visa Center at Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In October 2000, Diversity Visa processing was moved to a newly remodeled site at Williamsburg, Kentucky, known as the Kentucky Consular Center. This alleviated overseas missions of many clerical and file storage responsibilities. In November 2003, CA introduced an electronic filing process for the Diversity Visa program, known as the E-DV program, requiring electronic applications to be sent through the Internet. This permits computer screening of all principal applicants, spouses, and children for violations of Diversity Visa application rules.
OIG's fieldwork for the September 2003 report was conducted when the Diversity Visa program was paper-based and applications were processed by hand. Therefore, the recommendations in the report were based on technologies and statistics that have been significantly modifiedwell before the introduction of program tools such as computer data mining to detect duplicate entries, improved facial recognition technology, the use of electronic Diversity Visa applications filed exclusively via the E-DV program, and the recent increase in the Diversity Visa fee levied on winners at a level that covers the full cost of the program.
RESULTS IN BRIEF
OIG's September 2003 report identified eight recommendations to strengthen the Diversity Visa program. Specifically, OIG recommended that CA:
propose legislative changes to the Immigration and Nationality Act to bar aliens from states that sponsor terrorism from the Diversity Visa program;
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propose legislative changes to the Immigration and Nationality Act to bar permanently from future Diversity Visa lotteries all adults identified as filing multiple applications;
issue standards for determining whether foreign high school educations are comparable to U.S. high school educations;
prepare an annual report on regional and worldwide Diversity Visa trends and program issues;
determine whether antifraud field investigations are useful in Diversity Visa cases;
request authority to collect fees from all persons applying for the Diversity Visa program;
determine how the Diversity Visa fee could be appropriately devoted to antifraud work at overseas missions; and
conduct workload studies to determine whether a full-time visa officer position and a language-designated telephone inquiry position should be established at the Kentucky Consular Center.
OIG considers seven of the eight recommendations as closed or in the processes of closure. One that is open, related to multiple filings, is discussed below.
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCAliens from States that Sponsor Terrorism
Section 306 of the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Act of 2002 (Public Law 107173) generally prohibits issuance of nonimmigrant visas to aliens from states that sponsor terrorism unless the Secretary of State judges that such aliens pose no risk to national security. OIG noted that no parallel restriction exists for immigrant visas, including those resulting from the Diversity Visa program. To date, this legislative double standard persists.
OIG recommended that CA propose legislative changes to the Immigration and Nationality Act to bar aliens from states that sponsor terrorism from the Diversity Visa program. OIG continues to believe that the Diversity Visa program contains significant risks to national security from hostile intelligence officers, criminals, and terrorists attempting to use the program for entry into the United States as permanent residents. However, CA expressed concern with permanently disbarring aliens fleeing oppressive regimes of states that sponsor terrorism. For example, aliens fleeing oppression from Cuba, Libya, Syria, and Iran would be ineligible to apply for a visa via the Diversity Visa program if this recommendation were strictly implemented.
Under current conditions, consular procedures and heightened awareness generally provide greater safeguards against terrorists entering through the Diversity Visa process than in the past. Consular officers interview all Diversity Visa winners and check police and medical records once applicants begin the actual visa application process. CA now requires all immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applicants to be fingerprinted. This allows consular officers to run visa applicant fingerprints through U.S. databases of criminals and terrorists in about 15 minutes. It also means that if an applicant applies for a nonimmigrant visa using one name and later applies for a Diversity Visa under a different name, the fingerprint system will help to identify him as a fraudulent applicant. OIG closed this recommendation based on acceptable noncompliance.
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Persons Filing Multiple Applications
OIG's review identified a significant number of duplicate applications in the Diversity Visa program based on a completely paper process at the time. OIG took issue with the unfair advantage that multiple filers had for becoming winners and their additional administrative burden. Despite program restrictions against duplicate submissions, CA detects thousands of duplicate filings each year. Currently, the penalty for duplicate entry is disqualification for the year that the duplicate submission was detected.
OIG recommended that CA propose changes to the Immigration and Nationality Act to bar permanently from future Diversity Visa lotteries all adults identified as filing multiple applications. Under Section 212(a)(6)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act persons are ineligible for a visa based on fraud or willful material misrepresentations. There is no legal precedent or legislative authority for finding an applicant ineligible based on a clerical review. Therefore, CA raised concerns with the fairness and enforceability of the recommendation because it is difficult to prove that duplicate applications (1) were willful misrepresentations rather than inadvertent, and (2) were actually made by the applicant rather than by someone else to discredit or penalize the applicant.
This recommendation remains open between OIG and CA. OIG recommended this again in a more recent review concerning the Consular Fraud Prevention program.(see footnote 1) OIG will continue to review this recommendation in light of improvements and new technologies.
Standards to Determine High School Equivalency
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OIG recognized that the worldwide managerial direction for the Diversity Visa program needed tightening for adjudicating visa eligibility based on educational requirements. At the time of our review, some posts indicated that they had not evaluated local school systems to determine their equivalency to a U.S. high school degree and could not locate any Department cable or e-mail guidance on educational determinations. Embassies and consulates responsible for adjudicating third-country national applications described documents as unreliable and nearly impossible to check. Officers did not know third-country documents quite as well as their host country documents and typically could not determine the reliability of those documents.
OIG recommended that CA issue standards for determining whether foreign high school educations are comparable to U.S. high school educations. In 2004, CA began purchasing and distributing copies of the handbook, Foreign Educational Credentials Required for Consideration of Admission to Universities and Colleges in the United States. At that time, CA indicated that all Diversity Visa-issuing posts abroad would eventually receive this reference book, which translates and standardizes foreign educational credentials. Recently, CA distributed the reference books to all Diversity Visa-issuing posts. OIG considers this recommendation as resolved and intends to close it once formal instructions for using the books are established.
Annual Report on Diversity Visa Trends
In reviewing the work at several posts, OIG identified challenges that consular officers face in adjudicating applications. At the time of OIG's fieldwork, all missions were asked to comment on the Diversity Visa program, if relevant, in their annual Consular Package submissions. OIG observed that consular officers reported data. However, CA did not prepare and disseminate analyses on the Diversity Visa regional and worldwide trends. For example, although the Consular Package's annual statistics report provided useful issuance information by nationality and eligibility, this data was not reviewed and summarized for managing the program.
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OIG recommended that CA prepare an annual report on regional and worldwide Diversity Visa trends and program issues. As a result, CA issued summary reports in September 2004 and February 2005; therefore, OIG closed this recommendation.
Antifraud Field Investigations
Fraud is an ongoing major program issue. Antifraud activities are generally dominated by nonimmigrant visa fraud cases. Our 2003 review determined that many embassies and consulates with significant Diversity Visa issues did not routinely refer problem cases to their antifraud units. In fact, although every mission has a designated Fraud Prevention Officer, some missions have no separate antifraud units. CA was unable to document a strategy for overcoming the fact that certain countries' records, including school records, are under such poor control that their passports, identity documents, and vital records are unreliable for visa purposes, despite complaints of several embassies.
OIG recommended that CA determine whether antifraud field investigations are useful in Diversity Visa cases. CA responded by canvassing the top ten Diversity Visa posts in the summer of 2004 to collect information on Diversity Visa fraud prevention strategies. Based on this survey, CA prepared and sent to the field in October 2004 excellent guidance on Diversity Visa fraud prevention strategies and tools. Therefore, this recommendation is closed.
Making the Diversity Visa Program Self-Financing
Unlike other visa applications, the current Diversity Visa processing fee is collected only from applicants selected as winners. Millions of applicants, therefore, pay nothing to participate in the program, and traditionally, the U.S. government has paid all costs not covered by the Diversity Visa fee. Under the paper-based Diversity Visa system, CA determined that charging a small fee for registration was impractical, not cost effective, and not likely to serve as an adequate deterrent against multiple registrations.
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Due to program costs significantly exceeding revenues, OIG recommended that CA request authority to collect processing fees from all persons applying for the Diversity Visa program. In response, CA revised the Diversity Visa surcharge, effective March 8, 2005, from $100 to $375. This processing surcharge is imposed on winners of the Diversity Visa program. Although only charged to winners, the fee will be sufficient to cover all program costs. In view of this, OIG is closing this recommendation.
Diversity Visa Fraud Prevention
At the time of our 2003 review, OIG determined that CA could do a better job identifying all costs associated with the Diversity Visa program from overseas posts, especially with regard to the cost of its fraud prevention efforts. OIG recommended that CA determine how the Diversity Visa fee could be appropriately devoted to antifraud work at overseas missions.
In fiscal year 2004, the budget for the Diversity Visa Program was $4.287 million, of which just over $1 million was attributed to anti-fraud activities worldwide. To underscore the importance of the Diversity Visa program, in future allocations, CA intends to emphasize the need to include fraud expenses in their Diversity Visa funding requests as a separate item. OIG considers this recommendation as fully implemented and, therefore, closed.
Expertise for Strengthening the Diversity Visa Administrative Processing
When OIG began its review of the Diversity Visa program, there was no antifraud officer position at the Kentucky Consular Center. This lack of expertise made reviewing applications for fraud implications overwhelming, especially under the old paper-based system. Moreover, the Kentucky Consular Center had been receiving inquiries from Diversity Visa applicants to discuss their applications. As a result, OIG recommended that CA conduct workload studies to determine whether a full-time visa officer position and a language-designated telephone inquiry position should be established at the Kentucky Consular Center.
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In response, CA established and hired a fraud prevention manager and two assistants for the Kentucky Consular Center, thus eliminating the need for a full-time visa officer. OIG believes that Diversity Visa fees can fund these positions. However, with regard to the language-designated telephone inquiry position, CA determined that no predominating language exists among Diversity Visa applicants, other than English. CA believes that the Public Inquiries division sufficiently handles stateside inquiries received by telephone, letter, and e-mail as well as providing Diversity Visa information on the Department's web site. Posts abroad handle case-specific inquiries. Therefore, CA believes that language staffing either at the Kentucky Consular Center or at the National Visa Center is unnecessary. In light of these actions, OIG closed the recommendation.
During her visit last month to the Kentucky Consular Center, our consular inspector determined that, with the online filing of Diversity Visa applications now in its second year, all Diversity Visa enrollment applications are checked for duplicates using anti-fraud technology. Duplicates found at this step are disqualified. Winning entries selected from the remaining applications are checked for duplicate enrollment using facial recognition technology and bio-data comparison. However, the potential for fraud does not end with identifying duplicates. The Kentucky Consular Center flags fraud indicators for adjudicating officers to address when winning applications are further processed in the field. Although E-DV has not stopped duplicate filing, it has made identifying duplicate applications easier and helped the adjudicating officers have more effective interviews. As a result, CA is able to identify an increasing number of duplicates. OIG believes that continued advances in technology will increase detection of duplicates but will not stop duplicate electronic filings.
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In closing, OIG believes that in the process of complying with the recommendations of our 2003 report, CA has strengthened the Diversity Visa program. OIG will continue to monitor the program, as we inspect CA's management of consular operations and individual posts abroad, to oversee and assist the Department in improving both border security and program management.
Thank you Mr. Chairman. I welcome your questions and those of other members.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. Thank you, Mr. Krongard.
TESTIMONY OF MARK KRIKORIAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES
Mr. KRIKORIAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the invitation.
I am afraid that my comments will not be as interesting as the testimony yesterday from outer space that a couple Members of this body were able to hear, but I will do my best.
The visa lottery is a fatally flawed program. There are in fact as many problems with mismanagement as there are with much of the other elements of the immigration system, and problems like that could at least in theory be fixed by reforms. But the administrative problems, as important as they are, are secondary. It is the existence of the program that is the main problem because the visa lottery does not serve any national interest. And it should be discontinued. And let me touch briefly on some of the reasons I think that.
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Despite its name, the diversity lottery has done nothing to diversify the immigrant flow. Mr. Morrison conceded that it is impossible for it to diversify the immigration flow. And yet that is the clear rationale for many people's support of it. It can never be expected to diversify the flow. The top ten immigrant-sending countries still account for the majority of new arrivals just as a they did a decade ago. In fact, if you look at the existing immigrant population, the very time that the lottery has been operating, the existing immigrant population has been getting steadily less diverse. In 1990, Mexicans, the largest national origin group, were 22 percent of all immigrants. In 2000, they accounted for 30 percent of all immigrants. When you put all of Spanish-speaking Latin America together, one cultural group, they went from 37 to 46 percent of the total immigrant population; something we have never experienced in American history. Only a 30-, 40-, 50-fold increase in admissions under this program would make even a dent in the diversity of the immigration flow. And if national origins quotas are what this is about, we should just embrace them and stop pretending that we are trying to diversify the flow and institute open national origins quotas. I think that is a bad idea, but that is essentially what this is about.
Furthermore, the requirements for entering the lottery are so low as to be essentially meaningless. By design, they do not select the best and brightest from overseas that have the skills that are important to a modern society. Nor in my opinion would an increase in the nominal skills, levels of education and what have you that applicants would need to have make much difference because of the pervasive nature of fraud in the program.
And the fraud problem is systemic. It is not something that really can be alleviated or at least ended with better management. The systemic nature of the fraud is for two reasons. One, the State Department has an unavoidable institutional bias against law enforcement in favor of diplomacy, and that is essential. And weeding out fraud is a law enforcement function. That could be alleviated conceivably by transferring the visa function to the Homeland Security Department, but that is something that Congress decided not to do.
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The second reason that fraud is systemic is that lottery applicants come from the most corrupt nations in the world, objectively judged by people who do that sort of thing, and they have no U.S. family member or no U.S. institution to vouch for them or to help demonstrate their legitimacy as do family members or people being sponsored for jobs who also come from countries where corruption is widespread.
The idea of basing eligibility for immigration to the United States principally on a paper document issued in Nigeria or in Bangladesh or in Albania is absurd on its face.
The fraud is bad enough, of course, in the abstract, but after 9/11, this poses a serious security threat. First of all, it is a diversion for the State Department, a diversion of time and resources from people who are supposed to be attempting to screen terrorists and others out of those who are trying to come to the United States. And the lottery composes a large portion of the work in a number of important consular posts.
Nor does it draw people randomly from around the world. It disproportionately draws people from the Islamic world, the very countries where al-Qaeda is active. And I have some statistics on that in my statement.
This is not theoretical. As you said, Mr. Chairman, there are actual terrorists who have come in through the lottery program. Actually, you missed a couple. Karim Koubriti and Ahmed Hannan, who were members of the Michigan sleeper cell, were Moroccan lottery winners. The very fact that it encourages immigration of people who have no family or other connections in the United States makes it ideal for someone planning an attack.
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There are other ways to get here. For instance, temporary visas and what have you, but a greencard enables a terrorist to do a lot more than a temporary visa would. And the real vulnerability is not simply in the process that the Kentucky service center deals with, the initial application. The security vulnerability especially comes from the final application process where the winning numbers can and in fact according to the State Department have been sold to people who did not actually apply; and this gives al-Qaeda or any other bad guys attempting to enter the United States an opening.
And let me say just finally, this really is not about even the level of immigration. I have concerns about the level of immigration, but even if you think that we need 50,000 extra people each year entering the United States, it would seem both common sense and morally imperative to simply take the next 50,000 husbands, wives and little kids of legal, permanent residents rather than take complete strangers who have no family, no skills and no jobs in the United States. I will end there and be happy to answer questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Krikorian follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF MARK KRIKORIAN
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Mr. HOSTETTLER. Thank you, Mr. Krikorian.
TESTIMONY OF ROSEMARY JENKS, DIRECTOR OF GOVERNMENT RELATIONS, NumbersUSA
Ms. JENKS. Mr. Chairman, Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today about the Visa Lottery Program.
NumbersUSA is a grassroots organization representing 830,000 Americans who are concerned primarily with immigration's impact on American workers and on quality-of-life issues. These are folks who see the impact of our current immigration policy in their community every day. Their kids attend over-crowded schools. Their local emergency room is on the brink of bankruptcy. Many of them are unable to find a job that pays a livable wage, and those who are employed find their commutes getting longer and longer as roads become increasingly congested.
Imagine how these folks feel when they find out that the United States government by law holds a national-origins-based lottery each year to hand out 50,000 visas to randomly selected winners. I can assure you that the American people did not call their representatives in Washington one day and demand that a visa lottery be set up.
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I think it is also safe to say that the spouses and children of lawful permanent residents who must wait at least 4 years for a visa based on current processing times did not demand it either.
So who did demand it? I think Congressman Morrison answered that question in 1990 when he said, ''It is absolutely key to political support for our immigration system that all of the diverse groups that make up our country know that our immigration laws understand their interests and the concerns that they have that people from the parts of the world that their ancestors come from will also be considered under our immigration system.''
In fact, the lottery was created to benefit a handful of ethnic groups led by the Irish. The fact that 40 percent of the transition visas were reserved for Irish nationals, although the law was carefully worded so as to avoid saying that explicitly, is proof of that.
''Mr. Chairman, it has always been my understanding that the best immigration policy would be a policy that is fair and that applies equally to every country. In 1965, the last year that we passed a legal immigration bill, the whole point of that immigration bill was to make up for past discrimination and to come up with a legal immigration bill that would be fair and equal to all countries. Here we are today debating a bill that is special interest legislation that gives special privileges only to individuals from certain countries. I think that violates the fairness and equity that we all should expect in our immigration laws.''
Congressman Lamar Smith was referring to the lottery when he said those words almost 15 years ago during the floor debate on the bill that became the Immigration Act of 1990. And he was right. The visa lottery is inescapably and inexcusably a national-origins-based policy. It discriminates to the detriment of some and to the benefit of others based solely on a person's nationality.
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The visa lottery and the transition program leading up to it were justified on two grounds. First is the idea that some mostly European countries were adversely affected by the 1965 amendments. In other words, by taking away the privileged status of these countries that they had enjoyed prior to the 1965 act, Congress had discriminated against them, and so we now owed it to them to discriminate for them yet again.
Second is the idea that Congress has a duty to make the United States more diverse. The reality is that the United States does not need to admit a single additional immigrant to ensure increasing ethnic and racial diversity here. It is a demographic certainty. But the fact that 52 percent of all lottery visas have been awarded to Europeans should be sufficient to dispel the notion that true diversity was the goal.
Congressman John Bryant, a former Member of this Subcommittee from Texas pointed this out in 1990. ''They say that we need to increase diversity. We are already the most diverse country in the world. I would ask, how can bringing in so many people of the same race as the majority race encourage diversity?''
But even if the lottery did exactly what it purported to do, it would still be bad policy. As the bipartisan Jordan Commission on Immigration Reform pointed out in its final report, immigration policy should serve the national interest. That means that we should have clear goals and priorities and then design the immigration system to prioritize the admission of immigrants who meet those goals. The commission argued that in the absence of a compelling national interest to do otherwise and as long as an adequate system of protections for American workers is in place, immigrants should be chosen on the basis of the skills they contribute to the U.S. economy. The Jordan Commission found only two national interests compelling enough to diverge from this priority: uniting nuclear family members and providing safe haven to refugees.
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The commissioners apparently all agreed that the visa lottery should not be part of our legal immigration system. In fact, only one commissioner, Warren Leiden, disagreed with the commission's final report and even he did not mention the lottery in his dissent.
Mr. Chairman, the Immigration and Nationality Act says, ''No person shall receive any preference or priority or be discriminated against in the issuance of an immigrant visa because of his race, sex, nationality, place of birth or place of residence.''
Eliminating the visa lottery will bring us one step closer to making that law a fact. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Jenks follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF ROSEMARY JENKS
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Mr. HOSTETTLER. Thank you, Ms. Jenks.
At this point, we will turn to questions.
Mr. Krongard, in your opening statement, you talked about the issue of weeding out the presence of duplicate applications, and then at one point, even the recommendations that had been made by the OIG to the State Department will not necessarily result in the end of duplicates or the use of duplicates and the successful use of duplicates in the process. And Mr. Krikorian suggested that the problem in the program is systemic.
Can you further elaborate on why you think that this program will never achieve the weeding out of the fraud, such as duplicate applications, and the successful gaining of visas as a result of duplicate applications?
Mr. KRONGARD. I think the lead in to your question is correct, sir. First of all, we are dealing with very large numbers of applications, and there are no restrictions on who these applicants can be. For example, people can be making application who have no intention whatsoever of ever immigrating to the United States. They can be Americans. They can be American citizens who are participating in this. They can be people from some of these countries who have no intention of coming. However, winning the lottery is like a winning lottery ticket. As the gentleman from Virginia said, a cottage industry has grown up so that there are facilitators who make money off of this. There are advisors. There are people who, through unlawful means, acquire the winning notice, and therefore, there is an inducement that we are never going to eliminate. The recommendation that is still open is one that would make it at least illegal to reapply after you have been caught making multiple entries in 1 year. And that is still not dealt with. So there is really not enough disincentive or enough technology to eliminate the ability to make multiple entries.
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But I might add that, as the CA has definitely made improvements, I do not think there is any question about that, the technology has gotten better, more duplicate entries are being found and eliminated. Part of the problem now is also in the winning pool. In other words, there are anecdotal evidences of new types of fraud growing up in dealing with the winning lottery ticket and what is done with that and issues of who actually then comes along.
For example, we have the issue of what we call pop-up families. In other words, an applicant registers as a single person, for example, and wins the lottery and, in the course of applying for the visa with the winning lottery, now has a family. That is not on its face inappropriate. Under the regular immigration rules, to have a change, a significant change in your family life might put you into a different category, but there is only one category for diversity applicants. And therefore, if the reasons are correct and there is a true change that cannot be proven to be fraudulent, we have situations where a one-person enrollee becomes say a three- or four-person immigrating family.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. Interesting.
Mr. Krikorian, what do you think is the single biggest vulnerability to the program or to the visa lottery scheme in general?
Mr. KRIKORIAN. I would have to say the very concept of artificially stimulating immigration of people with no connections to the United States from the most corrupt countries in the world is, in other words, the center of the visa lottery, the whole concept of the visa lottery is the greatest vulnerability. I do not see any specific vulnerability or weakness that we could patch up that would make it significantly less problematic. I mean, it is bailing out the Titanic. It sinks a little slower, but it is a problem on its face.
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So I would have to say, stimulating immigration of people with no connection to the United States for no good reason, not to promote any specific national interest, is the central problem with the visa lottery.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. Do you have suggestions of how to address those in a reform?
Mr. KRIKORIAN. Getting rid of the visa lottery. That is my point. This is not something that can be reformed. It has got to be eliminated. Again, I would emphasize. I would prefer these 50,000 visas simply not be issued, but a less radical change would be simply to divert them to family category which actually does serve at least conceivably some national interest.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. Thank you.
The Chair now recognizes the gentlewoman from Texas, Ms. Jackson Lee, for purposes of an opening statement and questions.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Let me acknowledge a Member of my Committee, Mr. Berman. I thank him for his commitment to these issues and the Members of this Committee. This is an important hearing.
I just left a Homeland Security hearing, Mr. Chairman, and I thank you for your indulgence. We are overlapping hearings, and we were in the middle of intense questioning on the issue of the potential of terrorist acts against chemical plants. And one report suggests that that could wind up killing 2.4 million persons in a densely populated area. I make that anecdotal story because it appears that, on many occasions, we have taken immigration to be equated to terrorism. And this hearing, I hope, will shed some light on a very viable program and also give us some impetus for what I think many of us have a common commitment to, and that is a comprehensive look at immigration and the comprehensive reforming of the immigration policies in America, those that will respect the founding basis of this nation, that we are a land of immigrants and of laws.
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I want to congratulate Mr. Morrison on his vision on the Diversity Visa during his tenure here in the United States Congress.
The United States has tried several different systems for distributing immigration visas, and a national origins quota system favored immigrants from Europe at the expense of immigrants from other regions. In 1965, Congress replaced the national origins quota system with a system of family-based and employment-based immigration and a per-country limit. This does not distribute visas evenly either.
During the next 20 years, immigrants from Asia, Latin America outnumbered immigrants from other parts of the world. The next attempt to balance immigration from around the world produced a series of piecemeal lottery programs, and lotteries made it possible for immigrants from under-represented countries to obtain visas. This was followed by a permanent lottery system, the Diversity Visa program that is the subject of this hearing.
I think a year or two ago, we listened to a young man from Kenya who told a passionate story, a moving story about his opportunity to come to the United States on the basis of the Diversity Visa. It was established by the Immigration Act of 1990.
Diversity Visas are limited to six geographic regions with a greater number of visas going to regions that have low rates of immigration. The Diversity Visa program does not provide visas for countries that have sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the United States in 5 years. Applicants for Diversity Visas are chosen by a computer-generated random lottery drawing. The winners who qualify for immigrant visas and are eligible to admission to the United States are granted legal permanent resident status.
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To qualify, an applicant must have completed 12 years of formal education, the equivalent of graduating from a United States high school, or 2 years of qualified work experience. When Diversity Visa aliens apply for admission to the United States, they receive the same inspection that other immigrants receive.
I would hesitate to say that these are not individuals that cannot come here and provide for themselves and be contributing to our society.
In September 2003, the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of State issued a report on Diversity Visas. According to the report, the Diversity Visa program was subject to widespread abuse. Despite a rule against duplicate submission, thousands of duplicates were detected each year. Identity fraud was endemic, and fraudulent documents are commonplace.
The report recommended barring aliens from states that sponsor terrorism, permanently barring adult aliens who submit multiple applications, and making the program self-financing by charging every applicant a fee, instead of just charging applicants who win the lottery, which is in the present system.
The charge to winners is $350 per person. A much lower fee would be possible if every applicant had to pay a filing fee. The State Department has tried to work on this issue as it has converted from paper to electronic applications. It has required each applicant to submit an electronic photograph. The new process went into effect for the FY 2005 lottery program. The electronic system has made it possible to do much more comprehensive screening for duplicate applications.
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Mr. Chairman, I think it is important to note that there has been some progress in using the electronic format, and I think we should give this program greater opportunity. The last report by Deputy Inspector General Anne W. Patterson on April 29, 2004, she testified that the State Department had made progress in reducing fraud and vulnerabilities by introducing a facial recognition system.
So I would hope that we all express our concern in the right direction for fighting terrorists and that we find a way to cut down on fraud. In fact, Mr. Chairman, we note that there is fraud in the Social Security card. But I would hope that we would see the viability of the Diversity Visa program and hope to fix it and not to end it.
With that, Mr. Chairman, I would like to pose questions to the congressman for a time, and as I do so, Congressman Morrison, let me cite for the record that I have been given an overall gleaming affirmation of my commitment, Americans for Better Immigration. And I am so glad that I do not have to show this report card to my mother. But if I showed it to her, I could explain it to her, and I could assure you that she would be applauding me for understanding this nation. This is a bunch of F's and D's as relates to immigration, and distorted I might suggest. Distorted, misconstrued and false.
But I think it is important that we get a full understanding of what the visa program is. So could you briefly say to me whether and how you try to thwart fraud? In particular, would you respond to Ms. Jenks' comments, the visa lottery is a blatant example of a special interest driven approach to policy making?
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MORRISON. Congresswoman Jackson Lee, first of all, I am pleased to be here and to answer your questions. Let me say that, of course, special interest is always in the eye of the beholder. The things we do not like are special interests. The things we support are national interests, and of course, we will always be debating that. That is the nature of politics.
At the heart of the decision to create a program like this is a recognition that things that on the surface do not discriminate or do not give some people better opportunities than others, when you look below the surface operate a different way. The fact is that who it is that comes under family- and employment-based systems has its own special choice-making mechanisms and networking mechanisms that favor some people from some parts of the world over people from other parts of the world. The fact that we developed an immigration system that never opened the door to Africans to immigrate has a lot to do with our history with respect to Africa. And it certainly was one of the things that cried out to me at the time that we were considering these questions.
The same is true of the Soviet Union and other parts of what were the Warsaw Pact countries where people did not get to immigrate here and never created the employment flows, the networks of employment, nor the family relationships. So what this is is not an attempt to undo what exists in the other parts of the immigration system. It is an alternative route, and I think it accomplishes an alternative route.
And yes, there arethere have been in the administration of the program opportunities for fraud. And it seems to me that the State Department has been innovative in finding ways to fight that. And in fact, some of their identity verification schemes, their value goes far beyond the lottery program but to other immigration programs and other screening programs. And I think that is a benefit that has come from the existence of this program and should continue to be used.
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But the program itself is not the source of fraud, and the program itself is not incapable of being operated in a relatively effective manner.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. Let me ask you just quickly about the question that Mr. Krongard suggested about fraud and these pop-up immigrants if you will, pop-up family members. How do you respond to that?
Mr. MORRISON. Well, the possibility of pop-up families exist in all immigration categories. People get approved, and at the time that they apply for a visa, not when they get qualified initially through their family relationship or their employment or through the lottery, when they get to the point of applying for a visa, they can offer up accompanying or following to join family members that they claim to be related to. And that is a problem in immigration. And it has to be dealt with in every case, and it has to be dealt with as an area where there could be fraud, in which the relationship has to be examined. So it is not a problem with the diversity program. It is a problem with the fact that people are entitled to bring their families when they come to this country, whether as family members to someone else already here or to an employee for a company that is here.
Ms. JACKSON LEE. So you are saying that diversity visas should not be singled out because it plagues all levels of immigration, which we are all trying to work to decrease the fraud in all levels of our immigration system.
Mr. MORRISON. I do not know whether it plagues this more than others. The fact is that you can abuse our immigration system. Any system that allows people to travel here to the United States, to move here to the United States, there are bad people in the world who will try to misuse it. If we want to be totally safe, we can close the door or try to. But the fact is that if we are going to have the kind of open door that has served the country well for its history, then we will have to work on the anti-fraud side rather than to destroy the programs that bring people here.
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The fact is, people are talking about these folks who are coming without connection. For most of our history, most of the immigrants who are the forebearers of many of the people sitting in this room came on a self-selected basis who did not have a reason other than the reason they had in their hopes and their dreams to come here. So these people are not that different from the people who built America.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. I thank the gentlewoman.
The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Goodlatte for 5 minutes.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Congressman Morrison, welcome back to the Subcommittee that you once chaired. When you were doing that in the 1980's, I was practicing immigration law, and I assisted people from more than 70 countries to immigrate to the United States. So my purpose here is not anti-immigration. I do have views about many aspects of our current immigration system. I believe both our legal and illegal immigration problems are in need of addressing in many, many areas but most especially in this area.
When you talk about the creation of diversity, I have a problem with that because the fact of the matter is that countries from virtually every continent, including Africa, have been excluded from participation in this program at various times. Nigeria, for example, has in some years, because of the volume of the immigration from Nigeria, been excluded from participation. And I have a real problem telling someone from Nigeria who has a close family member or who has a job skill that is needed in the United States and has a direct contact with somebody in this country, that they are entitled to watch somebody from Kenya or Sierra Leone or some other African country bypass that entire process and, much more rapidly than they are able to do, come into this country on a visa with very skimpy information. We know far less about them because they do not have those family ties. They do not have those job skills, that contact with an employer in the country, and I just wonder how you justify telling that person from Nigeria or from Mexicothe last time we had a hearing on this there was an Asian-American who testified about the discrimination against Chinese applicants. There is discrimination again Europeans because sometimes Great Britain is on this list, and they are excluded from being able to participate, that somehow this is a fair system based upon our system of fairness and justice for people coming to this country from around the world.
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Mr. MORRISON. Our system is not fair, meaning that each person gets to be at the head of the line when they would like to be at the head of the line.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Do you not think that immigration should be a two-way street, that the national interests of the United States in seeking family reunification, in seeking employment skills that are needed in this country is a part of the process of determining who should come in here and not simply giving a visa to somebody because they put their name in a hat or, in this case, a computer, and they were lucky enough in a 1-out-of-100 or a 1-out-of-200 chance to have their name drawn while other people are on the sidelines from many, many countries that have
Mr. MORRISON. If the gentleman would yield.
Mr. GOODLATTE. I will yield again.
Mr. MORRISON. We do all of those things. That is, we bringmost of the people who come to the United States come through those two channels that you have just described. And it is a matter of opinion. Reasonable people can differ as to whether there ought to be this other channel.
But on the question of fairness, on the question of fairness which is where you started, the fact is that if you want fairness for immediate families then you ought to do what was in the House version of the Immigration Act of 1990, which is to treat immediate families, minor children and spouses, as immediate relatives and reunify those families immediately.
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Our failure to do that
Mr. GOODLATTE. Reclaiming my time.
Mr. Krikorian, who I agree with in terms of wanting to take these visas off the list because they serve no interest, pointed out that we could also use these visas for that very purpose. The bill that I have introduced that Mr. Smith co-sponsored, Congresswoman Herseth co-sponsored, does not do that, but it is a step in the right direction of ending what I think is an unfair practice.
Let me get in one more questionI see my light has turned yellowto Mr. Krongard, and that isI would ask you if you can tell me this. No matter what security precautions we take with this visa lottery program, there will always be relatively easy opportunities for terrorists to exploit the program; and I would argue that the inherent dangers of the program outweigh the merits. Do you believe that the program still contains serious risks to national security by the entry of terrorists or foreign intelligence officers?
Mr. KRONGARD. As I say in my written statement, we do continue to believe that. There are improvements that have been made. It is an open question as to how far the technology and the efforts by CA can go to really reduce to a satisfactory level that risk. The risk does continue. Whether it outweighs other things, I couldn't address that.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HOSTETTLER. The gentleman's time has expired.
The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Texas, Mr. Smith, for purposes of questions.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Krongard, as I recall, in your written testimony you recommended that the visa lottery program be reformed and that we do not admit individuals from terrorist-sponsoring countries. As I understand it, something like 18 percent of all the visa lottery applicants have come from both terrorist-sponsoring countries and countries that are sort of on our watchlist. That is a significant number. Would you be comfortable with that recommendation that you made in regard to terrorist-sponsoring countries extending to watch countries as well, where we either give them extra scrutiny or not admit them?
Mr. KRONGARD. That recommendation was deemed to be closed and satisfied by the response from CA, which was that they did not want to be in a position to prevent people fleeing oppression in countries like Cuba or Libya or Syria or Iran to make them ineligible for visa through the diversity visa program; and it would have taken statutory change to permit that. So while that recommendation was made, the response from our perspective being just dealing with compliance and implementation of a program rather than the policy and wisdom of the program, we deemed that that was a satisfactory response.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Let me direct my next question to Mr. Morrison, but on the way there say that Ms. Jenks almost embarrassed me by reminding me that it has been 15 years that I have been involved in the immigration reform business. Mr. Morrison could have embarrassed me by reminding us that while he was Chairman of the Immigration Subcommittee I was his Ranking, but I will bring it up myself as sort of going on the offense before I have to go on the defense.
Mr. Morrison, would you be willing to reform the systemmy light is sort of blinking herereform the system to the point where we do not admit individuals from terrorist-sponsoring countries? I know that is a small percentage, but would you be comfortable with that change?
Mr. MORRISON. I think that is a consideration.
I would also think that
Mr. SMITH. Would you support it?
Mr. MORRISON. Well, I want to qualify it a bit, as you would expect. I think that it is a complicated question, because many of these people are applying outside of those countries. They are in factthis is aas all of our immigration quota system works, it depends on where you were born, not where you are. So the question of whether somebody is tainted by birth, butit raises some questions. So I would think about it more broadly as to from where they are applying, and that might be an appropriate disqualification.
Mr. SMITH. Okay. Ms. Jenks, you don't want to reform the system. You want to eliminate the system, as does Mr. Krikorian. Why do you say it is bad policy and why do you say it is contrary to the national interest to have such a program?
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Ms. JENKS. Well, first of all, it is a national-origins-based system. I mean, there is no way to get around that. You are only eligible if you are from certain countries that are on the list.
The second thing is that it doesn't serve a national interest. These are, again, people who are not connected to the United States in any way. There is no particular reason to bring them here except for immigration for the sake of immigration. Maybe when we were still developing the west that would have been a justifiable reason, but it is not today when there are people in line who have spouses and minor children who have been waiting for years, when we have got employment-based immigrants now at the unskilled level at least waiting, and we have saturated our low-skill labor market here, and these are more people coming in with a high schoolthe equivalent of a high school degree. They are just not needed here.
Mr. SMITH. A few minutes ago, I think Mr. Goodlatte pointed out that this doesn't really contribute to diversity. Why do you think the lottery visas do not contribute to diversity? And Mr. Krikorian, if you could answer the same question.
Ms. JENKS. Well, the numbersthe statistics on the lottery winners show that 52 percent of them are European. We don't have a shortage of white people in this country. That is not additional diversity. There is a significant number of Africans coming in, which does put Africans above their historical level of immigration. But is that justification enough to bring in a whole bunch more white people from Europe? It just doesn't seem like that is diversity. And if you are talking about 50,000 visas in a flow of a million-plus legal immigrants and maybe another million illegal immigrants, you are not going to get to diversity.
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Mr. SMITH. Thank you.
Mr. KRIKORIAN. The numbers that I cited clearly show that it is not having an effect on diversity. In other words, that the immigrant flow and the immigrant stock already here aren't getting more diverse, more mixed. In fact, quite the opposite is what seems to be happening.
But I amfrankly, I am uncomfortable with the very idea that there aren't enough people of whatever kind coming in or too many people of whatever kind. I mean, this is national origins thinking. And if we want to do that, if we think that we need to have more Africans or more eastern Europeans coming in, I think let us start setting quotas. I don't like that idea. But as Lincoln said a long time ago in a different context, he said: I prefer to move to Russia where they take their despotism pure and unalloyed by hypocrisy.
Let us say what we are doing or let us not do it and try to stick to a neutral and ethically and racially neutral immigration system.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you.
Mr. Chairman, may I have the time to ask one more question?
Mr. HOSTETTLER. Without objection.
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Mr. SMITH. Thank you.
Mr. Krikorian, another question now. This is a little bit unfair. I noticed in your testimony that you use the phrase ''jobs Americans won't do.'' That is not the subject of today's hearing, but I would like to have your opinion as to whether there are jobs Americans won't do.
Mr. KRIKORIAN. There is no such thing as work that won't get done without immigration. It is economic gibberish. The fact is that there may be a specific number of jobs that would shrink without immigration, but that would mean that to
Just to pull a simple example out of the air. Instead of five landscapers with shovels, you would have one landscaper with a little bobcat frontloader. So, in that case, those four extra jobs may well be jobs that Americans won't do, but the work gets done by a smaller number of more productive, highly paid American or legal immigrant workers.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Krikorian.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. I thank the gentleman from Texas for his keen eye on that issue.
The Chair now recognizes the gentlelady from California, Ms. Waters, for 5 minutes.
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Ms. WATERS. I thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I really don't have a statement. I need to learn a lot more about the diversity visas. Of course, I have raised some questions in the past about places that I understand have met the quota ofI don't know what the quota is. But there are quotas that have been established, like places like Haiti who have a quota, met the quota in the United States, are not eligible for the diversity visas. Is that correct?
Mr. HOSTETTLER. If the gentlelady would yield, I am not exactly sure of the individual countries, but that can be the case.
Ms. WATERS. Well, then what I need to do is find out more information. I am particularly interested in the Caribbean and Africa, and I need to find out which of these countries
Mr. GOODLATTE. Would the gentlelady yield?
Ms. WATERS. Yes.
Mr. GOODLATTE. I thank the gentlelady for yielding.
The countriesI will list them off for you, because this is a very interestingand it is very diverse across the world. These countries are not eligible to participate in this year, and every year it can change. But Canada, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, South Korea, United Kingdomexcept Northern Ireland, and Vietnam.
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Now each year that changes. Some years, for example, Nigeria has been on that list as well excluded from participation, I would say discriminated against in participating. So to answer your question, Haiti is on the list this year. They cannot participate.
Ms. WATERS. Thank you very much. I yield back.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. I thank the gentlelady.
I want to thank once again the members of the panel for your presence and your testimony and assistance in this very important issue. All Members are instructed that we have 5 legislative days to make additions to the record.
The business before this Subcommittee being completed, we are adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 5:08 p.m., the Subcommittee was adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
Material Submitted for the Hearing Record
PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE BOB GOODLATTE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF VIRGINIA, AND MEMBER, SUBCOMMITTEE ON IMMIGRATION, BORDER SECURITY, AND CLAIMS
Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this important oversight hearing.
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The visa lottery program was created to bring foreign nationals into the United States from countries that have sent fewer immigrants in the past. This program awards permanent resident visas based on pure luck and threatens national security, results in the unfair administration of our nation's immigration laws, and encourages a cottage industry for fraudulent opportunists.
Each year, the visa lottery program grants approximately 50,000 foreign nationals ''permanent resident'' status. Because winners of the visa lottery are chosen at random, the visa lottery program presents a serious national security threat. A perfect example of the system gone awry is the case of Hesham Mohamed Ali Hedayet, the Egyptian national who killed two and wounded three during a shooting spree at Los Angeles International Airport in July of 2002. He was allowed to apply for lawful permanent resident status in 1997 because of his wife's status as a visa lottery winner.
The State Department's Inspector General has even weighed in on the national security threat posed by the visa lottery program. In his testimony, the Department of State's Inspector General states that the Office of Inspector General ''continues to believe that the Diversity Visa program contains significant risks to national security from hostile intelligence officers, criminals, and terrorists attempting to use the program for entry into the United States as permanent residents.'' Even if improvements were made to the visa lottery program, nothing would prevent terrorist organizations or foreign intelligence agencies from having members apply for the program who do not have criminal backgrounds. These types of organized efforts would never be detected, even if significant background checks and counter-fraud measures were enacted within the program.
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Usually, immigrant visas are issued to foreign nationals that have existing connections with family members lawfully residing in the United States or with U.S. employers. These types of relationships help ensure that immigrants entering our country have a stake in continuing America's success and have needed skills to contribute to our nation's economy. However, under the visa lottery program, visas are awarded to immigrants at random without meeting such criteria.
In addition, the visa lottery program is unfair to immigrants who comply with the United States' immigration laws. The visa lottery program does not expressly prohibit illegal aliens from applying to receive visas through the program. Thus, the program treats foreign nationals that comply with our laws the same as those that blatantly violate our laws. In addition, most family-sponsored immigrants currently face a wait of years to obtain visas, yet the lottery program pushes 50,000 random immigrants with no particular family ties, job skills or education ahead of these family and employer-sponsored immigrants each year with relatively no wait. This sends the wrong message to those who wish to enter our great country and to the international community as a whole.
Furthermore, the visa lottery program is wrought with fraud. A report released by the Center for Immigration Studies states that it is commonplace for foreign nationals to apply for the lottery program multiple times using many different aliases. In fact, 364,000 duplicate applications were detected in the 2003 visa lottery alone.
In addition, the visa lottery program has spawned a cottage industry featuring sponsors in the U.S. who falsely promise success to applicants in exchange for large sums of money. Ill-informed foreign nationals are willing to pay top dollar for the ''guarantee'' of lawful permanent resident status in the U.S.
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The visa lottery program is also by its very nature discriminatory. The complex formula for assigning visas under the program arbitrarily disqualifies natives from countries that send more than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. within a five-year period. For the 2006 application period, nationals from countries such as Mexico, Canada, China, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti and others were not allowed to participate in the visa lottery program.
The visa lottery program represents what is wrong with our country's immigration system. That is why I introduced H.R. 1219, the ''Security and Fairness Enhancement (SAFE) for America Act.'' This much-needed legislation eliminates the controversial visa lottery program to enhance national security, reduce fraud and opportunism and restore fairness to our immigration system.
Thank you again, Mr. Chairman, for holding this important hearing.
PREPARED STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE SHEILA JACKSON LEE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TEXAS, AND RANKING MEMBER, SUBCOMMITTEE ON IMMIGRATION, BORDER SECURITY, AND CLAIMS
The United States has tried several different systems for distributing immigrant visas. A national origins quota system favored immigrants from Europe at the expense of immigrants from other regions. In 1965, Congress replaced the national-origins quota system with a system of family-based and employment-based immigration and a per-country limit, but this did not distribute visas evenly either. During the next 20 years, immigrants from Asia and Latin America outnumbered immigrants from other parts of the world.
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The next attempt to balance immigration from around the world produced a series of piecemeal lottery programs. Lotteries made it possible for immigrants from under represented countries to obtain visas. This was followed by a permanent lottery system, the Diversity Visa Program that is the subject of this hearing. It was established by the Immigration Act of 1990.
Diversity visas are limited to 6 geographic regions, with a greater number of visas going to regions that have low rates of immigration. The Diversity Visa Program does not provide visas for countries that have sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the United States in the past 5 years.
Applicants for diversity visas are chosen by a computer-generated, random lottery drawing. The winners who can qualify for immigrant visas and are eligible for admission to the United States are granted legal permanent residence status. To qualify, an applicant must have completed twelve years of formal education (the equivalent of graduating from a United States high school) or 2 years of qualifying work experience. When diversity visa aliens apply for admission to the United States, they receive the same inspection that other immigrants receive.
In September of 2003, the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of State issued a report on the Diversity Visa Program. According to the report, the Diversity Visa Program was subject to widespread abuse. Despite a rule against duplicate submissions, thousands of duplicates were detected each year. Identity fraud was endemic, and fraudulent documents were commonplace.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The report recommended barring aliens from states that sponsor terrorism; permanently barring adult aliens who submit multiple applications; and making the program self-financing by charging every applicant a fee instead of just charging the applicants who win the lottery, which is the present system. The charge to winners is $350 per person. A much lower fee would be possible if every applicant had to pay a filing fee.
The State Department has converted from paper to electronic applications and has required each applicant to submit an electronic photograph. The new process went into effect for the FY 2005 lottery program. The electronic system has made it possible to do much more comprehensive screening for duplicate applications.
When paper applications were being used, the screening for duplicates was limited to comparing the winning applications against each other and against a small sampling of applications from applicants who had not been selected. It was not feasible to do more comprehensive screening when there were as many as 9 million paper applications. Under the new, electronic system, all of the applications from within each of the 6 regions are compared to each other; and additional comparisons are made among the winners.
At a hearing last year on April 29, 2004, the Deputy Inspector General, Anne W. Patterson, testified that the Department of State had made progress in reducing fraud and vulnerabilities by implementing a facial recognition system.
Another concern I want to address is that terrorists will use the program to enter the United States. People who enter the U.S. using diversity visas receive the same screening as any other aliens who come here as an immigrants, and this is much more extensive than the screening for admission as a nonimmigrant visitor, which is how the 9/11 terrorists entered the country.
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The Diversity Visa Program does what it was intended to do; it diversifies immigration to the United States. I believe very strongly that this is a benefit to the United States. Thank you.
(Footnote 1 return)
See OIG report, Management Review of Visa and Passport Fraud Prevention Programs (ISP-CA-05-52), issued in November 2004.