New US immigration bill would end Green Card Lottery

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As has already reported, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Dec. 16, 2005 that would affect many aspects of US immigration. The bill would criminalize the status of millions of non–U.S. citizens, mandate that lawful immigrants convicted of minor crimes be deported, require all employers in the U.S. to use a costly and unreliable electronic system to verify the employment eligibility of all workers, and fundamentally disrupt our society and economy.

It would also cancel the Diversity Visa program (the so-called Green Card Lottery). The lottery makes available 50,000 immigrant visas each year. Citizens of certain countries, namely those that have not sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the US in the past five years, can apply for the visas.

Critics dislike the bill for numerous reasons. They say it would provide no road to lawful status for the millions of undocumented noncitizens already in the U.S., nor does it address the crucial need for comprehensive immigration reform — reform that addresses the fact that, as long as there is no viable legal alternative, people will continue to enter the U.S. illegally to reunite with family here and to fill jobs that most U.S. citizens eschew.

Though the House has now passed its immigration bill, the Senate is not expected to act on immigration legislation until February 2006. Once the Senate has passed an immigration bill, the House and Senate bills will have to be reconciled by a conference committee. will keep you updated on the bill's progress.

HR 4437 emerged from the House Judiciary Committee with provisions that would have a detrimental effect on citizens and documented and undocumented noncitizens alike, because it would:

  • Make unlawful presence in the U.S. a crime — a shortcut to authorizing state and local police to enforce federal immigration law.

  • Make conviction of unlawful presence in the U.S. an aggravated felony, which could make millions of undocumented immigrants permanently ineligible for any legalization program.

  • Expand detention of non–U.S. citizens in removal proceedings.

  • Expand the definition of criminal "alien smuggling" in such a way that anyone who assists an undocumented person to live or remain in the U.S. could be charged with a criminal offense.

  • Require the expedited removal of noncitizens (except for Mexicans, Canadians, and Cubans) apprehended within 100 miles of the border within 14 days of their arrival in the U.S.

  • Gut due process protections and access to judicial review for immigrants.

  • Create a phone and Internet–based employment eligibility verification system (EEVS) that not only all employers would be required to use, but also those who recruit or refer individuals for employment, including labor agencies and nonprofit groups.