The Gang of Eight, a group of eight senators, four Republicans and four Democrats, who have been working on proposals for a law that would radically overhaul the US immigration system since January, have released their draft Act of Congress, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013. It is 844 pages long and contains proposals to reform every area of the system.
The basic elements of the bill were expected but there have been one or two surprises. One change that commentators had not expected was the abolition of the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program or 'Green Card Lottery'.
The Green Card Lottery was first held in the fiscal year of 1995 to distribute green cards to citizens from countries with historically low rates of emigration to the US. Citizens of these countries could enter their names in a lottery to try to win a US permanent resident visa also known as a 'green card'. A green card confers permanent resident status on its holder and is a step on the road to full US citizenship.
DV-2014, held in October 2012, could be the last55,000 green cards have been available each year in the lottery but, if the Gang of Eight's bill becomes law, then last year's lottery, held in October 2012 will be the last. Last year's lottery was officially called The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program 2014 or DV-2014 because those successful in the 2012 green card lottery will not be granted permanent resident status until 2014.
Those who entered the DV-2014 can check whether they were successful from May 1st 2013 on the lottery website. If they were selected, they will then have to prove that there is no reason that they are barred from receiving a green card (such as a serious criminal conviction) and pay their fees in the usual way. Their green cards will not be issued until the 2014 fiscal year.
It is something of a surprise that the Gang of Eight's bill would abolish the Green Card Lottery because the Democrats still support the program. The Republicans have been opposed to it for some time.
In 2012, Republican Lamarr Smith introduced the STEM Jobs Act in the House of Representatives, the lower house of the US Congress. If this act had become law, it would have taken the visas from the lottery and given them instead to foreign graduates from US universities with degrees in the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
Democrats opposed the STEM Jobs Act explicitly because it would abolish the lottery. It is clear that the Democrat senators in the Gang of Eight have traded their support for the lottery in the negotiations to reach a deal.
Immigration reform bill may not become lawIt is not necessarily the end for the Green Card Lottery though. In order for the Gang of Eight's Act to pass, it will need to be passed by both houses of the US Congress, the Senate and The House of Representatives. At present, the Senate is controlled by the Democrats and the House is controlled by the Republicans.
Since the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 was revealed on Tuesday 16th April 2013, most Democrats who have spoken out have expressed their support for the Act but there is already a significant number of Republicans who say they will not support it. If the bill does not pass, the law will stay as it is for the time being and the Green Card Lottery will survive.
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