Hearing on H.R. 709, the "SAFE for America Act"
Statement of Dan Stein
Federation for American Immigration Reform
Presented to the House Judiciary Subcommittee
on Immigration Policy and Enforcement
This testimony describes FAIR's support for legislation to abolish the visa lottery.
This statement is submitted on behalf of the Federation for American Immigration Reform's more than a quarter million members and activists. FAIR is a national, non-profit public interest organization that works to end illegal immigration, restore moderate legal immigration and reform our immigration laws to bring them into accord with the national interest.
The visa lottery program, or diversity visa program as it is also known, has no place in a legal immigration system that already is admitting more than a million immigrants a year. It has a very low qualification standard for admission — a secondary school education. It fuels demand for family-sponsored immigrant visas. And it adds persons to our workforce without regard to economic conditions with no consideration for the U.S.-workers with whom the visa lottery immigrants will compete for jobs.
The very creation of the lottery visa provision is a testament to the fact that the immigration system is dysfunctional and needs major reform. The 1965 reform legislation was ostensibly to allow visas for persons who previously had not had much chance for obtaining entry because of the preference given to immigrants from European countries. Yet since 1965, Mexico has come to dominate the flow of immigrants in a way that no European country ever did prior to 1965. Rather than reforming the immigration system, the visa lottery was tacked on to provide visas for persons from countries that were still underrepresented among the foreign-born population.
The lottery visa system meets no national need, since there are no specific skills or abilities required. It, in effect, picks immigrants out of a hat — a process that makes no sense unless the objective is simply to increase the size of the U.S. population. In addition to serving no national purpose, the lottery program has negative effects that argue for its elimination from the nation's immigration system. Among those negative effects are the following:
- The visa lottery creates additional competition for jobs, which especially harms American-born minorities working in low-skill positions.
- The visa lottery grants green cards to individuals regardless of education or skill, while skilled green card applicants may wait for years to be admitted.
- The visa lottery speeds up population growth in the United States, which impedes our ability to conserve resources and create a sustainable society. Americans have clearly expressed a strong majority view that immigration is too high and should be lowered. Clearly, the 55,000 immigrant lottery visas should be a prime candidate for elimination.
- The visa lottery allows illegal aliens already in the United States to apply for a lottery visa, and allows them to stay and adjust status to legal resident with no penalty. This sends the message that we are not serious in our efforts to combat illegal immigration.
- The visa lottery is widely exploited by unscrupulous persons — both American and foreign — who take advantage of the aspirations of foreigners to immigrate to the United States. Numerous firms advertise that they can facilitate the lottery entry requirements for a fee. In fact the entry procedure is simple and costs nothing. The problem is that many people around the world are not well informed about the lottery and are easy prey for these unscrupulous agents. Unfortunately, they are not breaking any U.S. law by their activities, and the only thing that would shut down their operations would to abolish the lottery.
FAIR's position since its founding in 1979 is that Congress must restore moderation to our legal immigration system. We advocate a reduction in immigration to the level of emigration so that immigration is no longer driving the nation's rapid population increase. That position is centered on the long-term needs of the country as we face major resource constraints.
Congress still has before it an unfinished agenda for immigration reduction from the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform. The Commission's recommended reduction in legal immigration included elimination of the visa lottery. Congress failed to act on those recommendations in 1996, but expressed the intent to return to that agenda. It still has not done so. Congress came close to ending the program in 2007 by eliminating funding for it in both the House (H.R. 2764) and the Senate, but the provision was omitted from the conference report.
For all of these reasons, Mr. Chairman, FAIR strongly urges the elimination of the visa lottery system through the passage of H.R. 709, the SAFE for America Act.