A group of diversity lottery applicants from countries covered by President Donald Trump’s travel ban have filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking to force the State Department to adjudicate their diversity lottery visa applications before time runs out for them.
Administered by the Department of State, the Diversity Lottery makes 50,000 immigrant visas (“green cards”) available each year to individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. Applicants randomly selected in a lottery have a few more hurdles to overcome. They must file an additional application, be interviewed, and have their visas granted before the end of the fiscal year (September 30, 2017). The “lottery” provides a way for individuals who have no family or work ties to the United States to immigrate. Some call it a “golden ticket” and believe that the lottery reflects positively on the United States and its ideals. More than a million people have used it to come to the United States since the lottery began in 1995. Trump and others, however, prefer a total merit-based immigration system, which would eliminate the diversity lottery all together. Indeed, this is one of the tenets of the RAISE Act recently introduced in Congress by Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.).
In their suit, beneficiaries argue that while the travel ban could prevent individuals from the “suspect” countries from entering the United States, it should not prevent the State Department from adjudicating diversity visas. Those who receive the visas have six months to enter the United States. While they must have their visas approved by September 30, they do not need to enter the United States until the end of March 2018, by which time, theoretically, the travel ban will have expired.
The plaintiffs are from Yemen and Iran.