US Green Card Lottery lifeline issued by federal judge

by: Daniel Waldron and Sanwar Ali |

It does seem to be somewhat unfair that people enter the lottery, are lucky enough to be picked, and then are told that they cannot apply for a US Green Card visa because of the Trump work visa ban.  Perhaps false advertising!  Fortunately, Judge Mehta’s recent judgement says that US visa lottery applicants should be able to apply, despite the “Trump ban”. 

Trump does not like the diversity visa scheme.  However, he has not been able to end the visa scheme in the Houses of Congress.  As Obama found before him passing major changes to US immigration law through both Houses of Congress is very difficult.

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Who will win the Presidential elections?  Most people seem to think Biden.  He has been consistently ahead.  In 2016 there was a much smaller difference in the polls between Trump and Hillary Clinton.  However, Trump does have the ability to surprise people.  We will see!  If it is another four years of Trump we will see more “immigrant bashing” for some time to come.

The Trump administration has been ordered to resume the issuing of US diversity visas to immigrants from underrepresented nations. The ruling came from a federal judge and partially reverses a ban imposed amid the coronavirus on temporary US work visas. Diversity visas are issued to up to 55,000 people from countries that are underrepresented in the US.

Most diversity visas are granted to people from African nations, who are selected from a lottery of millions. Those chosen, who come under an easier process for green cards at US Embassies, lose their place if they fail to secure their visa by September 30 in the year in which they were selected.

12,000 diversity visas for the 2020 lottery had been issued by the US State Department prior to Trump’s temporary work visa ban, which is set to run until the end of the year at least. “The ban left 43,000 winners waiting,” US district judge, Amit Mehta, said.

Not all green card diversity visas have to be issued

In his 85-page ruling, Mehta said: “To be clear, there is no statutory requirement that every available diversity visa be issued each year. However, this does not mean that the State Department could effectively extinguish the diversity program for a given year by simply sitting on its hands and letting all pending diversity visa applications time out.”

Appointed under former US President, Barack Obama, Mehta has denied requests to take similar action on other US visa categories that have been subjected to Trump’s ban, including the popular H1B visa route and the H2B visa issued to seasonal workers.

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Trump has targeted scrapping the diversity visa lottery, claiming that it brings ‘the worst of the worst to the US.’ Despite justifying his ruling on the grounds that the delay of issuing diversity visas was ‘unreasonable’, Mehta made it very clear that he disagreed with Trump’s characterization of people entering the US through the diversity visa scheme.

Immigrants pursuing the American Dream

Mehta said: “Diversity visa lottery winners are people who have come to this nation, like millions before, to seek a better life for themselves and their families, and to pursue the American Dream. They do not deserve to be caricatured as common criminals, or to be used as a political wedge issue.”

Trump’s work visa ban was imposed under the guise of protecting American jobs, with more than 40 million US citizens filing for unemployment amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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Mehta has ordered the Trump administration to ‘undertake good-faith efforts … to expeditiously process and adjudicate’ diversity visas for 2020. However, he did stop short of extending the deadline beyond September 30. An additional hearing has now been scheduled for September 25 to outline the next steps.

Karen Tumlin, director of Justice Action Center, said: “Diversity visa applicants can finally exhale today. The diversity visa lottery has allowed for substantial diversification of legal immigration, especially from Africa, and we’re thankful the court is protecting that.”

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