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What is the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program?

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What is the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program?

Under the motto e pluribus unum (from many, one), U.S. presidents frequently remind Americans that they share the immigrant experience of starting fresh in the land of opportunity. Yet, as migration demographic concentrations faced noticeable shifts in the latter half of the 1900s, America’s open-armed values began to decay. By the end of the 20th century, the policies put into effect by the Immigration Act of 1965 had greatly changed the face of the American population: from 1965 through 1985, the highest concentration of migrants were arriving from primarily white European countries. Black and Asian migrants were trailing behind the massive numbers of whites and Hispanics, and their joint census accounted for less than 25 percent of the total immigrants entering the US. Nonetheless, between 1965 and 1985, white European migration had been in steep decline, from the 75 percent of total year-on-year immigration in the initial census, to a mere 35 by 1985. By 1990, European numbers accounted for just over 25 percent of the total immigrants. Immigrant inflow, as 2015’s immigrant date census shows, is now represented by about 45 percent Hispanic and 25 percent Asian migrants, compared to white Europeans, who make up about around 20 percent of total immigrant migration, and black immigrants, who, since 1965, have teetered above and below about 15 percent.

In 1990, when the shifts in migrant demographic representation were a constant source of political debate, then-New York congressman, Chuck Schumer, was one of 31 co-sponsors to draw up the House of Representatives’ “Diversity Visa Program” as a part of the 1990 Immigration Act, spearheaded by Connecticut Democrat Rep. Bruce Morrison.

The diversity program--also known as “The Green Card Lottery”-- exists in a sect of “calculated” diversity planning that purposefully rounds out representation, similar to university Affirmative Action policies. The program went into effect in 1995, as a modification and expansion of the 1965 act, increasing the total level of immigration to 700,000. Under the program, the State Department offers 50,000 visas each year to immigrants from parts of the world with relatively low immigration rates determined by the previous five years of immigration data. According to the Department of State, the visas “are distributed among six geographic regions and no single country may receive more than seven percent of the available DVs in any one year.”

The law was initially intended to make the flows of legal immigrants to the United States more closely resemble the “demographic profile” of existing American citizens, by admitting more Europeans to the United States; at the time, in “low admission” compared to Asian and Hispanic countries.

Anna Law, a professor of constitutional studies at the City University of New York, wrote in a 2002 report, The Diversity Visa Lottery—A Cycle of Unintended Consequences in United States Immigration Policy, that “the people who [advocated] for the lottery had no interest in diversity,” and that it merely “provided cover for a policy that [addressed] racial and linguistic fears about Asian and Hispanic predominance.”


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