House Judiciary Committee Strikes a Blow for Common Sense by Approving a Bill that Would End the Visa Lottery

The so-called Diversity Visa lottery has been in the news lately, not because it was a dumb idea to begin with, but because the State Department managed to screw it up and was forced to tell thousands of people who thought they had won one that they had not.

The real story isn’t that the State Department made a mistake. Rather, the real story is that the Diversity Visa lottery itself was a mistake – one that the House Judiciary Committee took a long overdue step to try to correct today. By a 19-11 vote on Wednesday, the panel approved The Security and Fairness Enhancement for America Act of 2011, H.R. 704. It’s just the first hurdle, but it is a noteworthy accomplishment nonetheless.

The very existence of the Diversity Visa lottery – first created by Congress in 1990 – is an admission that our current legal immigration system is unfair and serves no identifiable national interest. The late Sen. Ted Kennedy pushed the Diversity Lottery at a time when lots of Irish were clamoring to immigrate to the U.S., but couldn’t, because they were shut out of a system that favors family chain migration. Congress, in its infinite wisdom, decided that instead of putting everyone on a level playing field and ending family chain migration, they’d just heap another 55,000 visas on top of an already dysfunctional system and award them to people lucky enough to have their names pulled out of a hat. (Is it any wonder the country is in the shape it’s in?)

In the ensuing years, most of the visas wound up not going to Irish applicants because most Irish were busy enjoying the illusion of prosperity fueled by an even more disastrous real estate bubble than we experienced. Nevertheless, we continue to pick 55,000 new Americans whose primary qualification for admission is being able to fill out an application and lick a stamp.

If we really want a diverse immigrant flow and one that benefits our country, we’d scrap not just the Diversity Visa lottery, but our entire existing legal immigration system. In its place, we institute a system that selects a limited number of people based on an objective assessment of their likelihood to succeed in this country, and limit family reunification to spouses and minor children. That would be the “Dream Act” for most Americans. In the meantime, we can all take heart that at least one committee in one house of Congress is willing to admit that one component of our massive immigration system is a mistake and actually try to correct it.

About Author


Ira joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 1986 with experience as a journalist, professor of journalism, special assistant to Gov. Richard Lamm (Colorado), and press secretary of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. His columns have appeared in National Review, LA Times, NY Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, and more. He is an experienced TV and radio commentator.


  1. avatar

    So you don’t want to bring new people into the country where main mechanism of existence is ENDLESS BORROWING and USE OF CHEAP LABOR. Sorry hon, but this is what capitalism is about. Before it was slavery, that’s how your predecessors got rich, now it’s illegal immigrants you make work for nada. You still don’t agree?

    China have stolen most of the technology and is building army, space programs and manufacturing facilities now. Read WikiLeaks, not your FOX NEWS. And your, YOUR COUNTRY is full of people who HAVE NO IDEA of what they want to do when they grow up. They think they will be okay, just because US has been okay since the WW II. Things are going to change very soon, but wait – you still think that Tea Party is your ticket up. Keep dreaming….

  2. avatar

    This could be the start of something good. I worked in Eastern Europe from the early 90’s until about 2002. The American Diversity VISA was the subject of a lot of corruption and scams. Abolishing it is good for the foreign countries and for the U.S. I haven’t checked the committee vote but I am sure my Congressman on the committee voted for it.

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  4. avatar

    “(Is it any wonder the country is in the shape it’s in?)” If you don’t like it get out

  5. avatar

    Hurrah for the judicial committee. Someone has their thinking cap on and is using it to its fullest.

  6. avatar
    Dave in Chicago on

    I agree with everything here but with one more detail. We need to make it easy for people to bring in their wives/husbands and for colleges to get VISAs for students (temporary ones that is).

    • avatar

      You complete crazy,we are in we home and decide what,not alien.No more student,no family no one is enough,we must seal a border,we no won more alien here legal or illegal,who don’t like stay in your country.

    • avatar

      The red tape and expense to bring your spouse and children here is long and expensive. Really, is that fair? we need to fix the system, because in this day of computers shouldn’t paperwork be pretty easy to complete and research to be done? why does all this stuff take so long? I forgot ” the hard working government workers” .. They Work for us…yea right