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Green card lottery may be casualty in immigration reform

The green card lottery visa program randomly selects 55,000 applicants each year and is meant to further diversify the pool of immigrants who are allowed to enter the United States. Although very small in comparison to the other visa programs, the lottery had almost 8 million applications last year.

However, despite the program's popularity, the lottery could come to an end with the immigration reform that has been proposed. The Senate is currently considering a compromise to the immigration reform bill that would cut the green card lottery in order to put the visas toward a bigger merit-based system.

There are some groups standing up for the lottery system, including the Congressional Black Caucus, which has said that the lottery help makes up for an immigration system that has historically favored immigrants from a few large countries like China and India with high-skilled workers instead of smaller, poorer countries.

There are also many immigrants and would-be immigrants who are shocked that the United States could get rid of the lottery system.

“In my country, whole cities wait to hear the results of this lottery. I can’t believe they would take it away,” said an Ethio­pian immigrant and former lottery winner. “We may not earn a lot, but on $200 a month, your whole family can survive back home," said the young man, who is a limo driver.

Some politicians, too, have voiced a desire to preserve the lottery system. Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.) said he supports the lottery as "Diversity visas are one of the few ways people from Africa and the Caribbean can come to this country.”

However, another Democrat who helped author the diversity visa lottery said he cares about the system, but in light of the Republican opposition and after concluding that the lottery system had "strayed from its original purpose," he and other senators involved in the negotiation "decided we couldn't continue it."

Source: The Washington Post, "Green card lottery, a ticket to hope for many, could be eliminated," Pamela Constable, May 12, 2013

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