Amidst the Trump administration’s consistent push to undercut immigration to the United States and use just about every excuse at its disposal to do, the Obama-appointed federal Judge Amit Mehta has ordered the Trump team to resume processing visa applications from winners of the diversity visa lottery. The diversity visa program includes up to 55,000 visas a year that are distributed to the members of a large group of visa applicants from countries whose residents are generally underrepresented in the U.S. and in immigrant pools. The visa recipients are selected via lottery from that larger group.
The Trump administration had abruptly stopped processing the cases of many of the folks who won this year’s lottery as the Coronavirus pandemic set in. The excuse that the president employed was an attempt to protect the struggling American economy from an influx of foreign workers, although it’s unclear what effect that the visa recipients would have even had in the domestic job market.
A key issue at stake is that if lottery winners don’t have their visas issued by September 30, then they lose their chance, under current legislation. Judge Mehta said:
‘To be clear, there is no statutory requirement that every available diversity visa be issued each year. But that 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.’
Trump has claimed that the diversity visa program brings “the worst of the worst” to the United States. The program serves many African countries, so racist undertones seem pretty clear. Mehta countered Trump’s assertion about the visa recipients, saying:
‘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.’
Diversity visas aren’t the only ones that were included in Trump’s suspension of many types of visas through the end of the year. Visas for immigrant family members, high-tech workers, and seasonal workers were also affected, but Mehta declined to take up questions regarding those categories. He’s also so far declined to extend the September 30 deadline for processing diversity visas — but he did schedule a hearing for September 25 to deal with potential further action.