I’ll be honest, before the recent terrorist attack in New York City, I didn’t know a great deal about the “diversity lottery” for immigration. Passed in 1990, it’s a measure aimed at trying to encourage immigration from countries whose citizens don’t normally immigrate to the United States. The individuals are then selected randomly and offered visas and a path to citizenship in the United States.
I know I’m a progressive, and I’m definitely pro-immigration, but I don’t get this. Diversity is great, but this feels like a bill that went a little too far in trying to create it.
That said, I’m sure it doesn’t surprise anyone reading this to find out that Donald Trump, the Republican Party, and the conservative media are omitting extremely important details about the “diversity lottery” and why it still exists. Their rhetoric has centered around blaming this system on Democrats, insisting that immigration should be based on merits of the individual, not some random lottery.
For starters, while this bill was pushed by Democrats, when it was passed and signed into law in 1990, the president was George H. W. Bush — a Republican.
In fact, quite a few Republicans actually supported this bill. It passed the Senate 89-8, even though Democrats only held a 55/45 advantage over Republicans.
So, not only did congressional Republicans support this bill, but it was also signed into law by a Republican president.
However, there’s an even bigger part to this whole story Trump, the GOP, and the conservative media really don’t want people to know: the “diversity lottery” still exists because of anti-immigrant Republicans like Trump and the conservative media.
If you’ve followed politics over the last few years, odds are you’ve heard about the “Gang of Eight” bill from back in 2013. This was a bipartisan bill passed by the Senate, by a fairly wide margin no less, to address immigration reform. Had that bill become law, it would have replaced the “diversity lottery” with a — wait for it — more merit-based system.
Here’s a 2013 quote from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), one of the Republicans who supported the bill:
To accomplish the move to a more merit-based immigration system, we eliminate certain categories of family preferences that have allowed for chain migration and completely eliminate the diversity visa lottery, among other reforms.
Yet this never happened because the Republican-controlled House wouldn’t even let representatives vote on the bill.
Because the GOP was worried that enough Republicans would side with Democrats on the bill, passing it, which would send it to Barack Obama’s desk where he would have then signed it into law.
This was a classic case of GOP obstruction.
Here we had a bipartisan Senate bill that Obama would’ve signed, but the GOP-led House wouldn’t even vote on it because they were afraid it would actually pass.
If you recall, during the GOP primary, Trump used Rubio’s support of the “Gang of Eight” bill against him to claim that he was too soft on immigration. Other hardliners such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) have also made attacking the Republicans who supported that bipartisan bill a regular part of their anti-immigration talking points.
To put it bluntly, basically the only reason the “diversity lottery” still exists today — as opposed to a more merit-based system like Trump and most on the right are calling for — is because Republicans stood in the way of a common sense, and more importantly, bipartisan immigration reform bill.
Though I think it’s important to point out that even under the current “diversity lottery” system, those who qualify must still meet the same security and eligibility requirements that all immigrants are required to clear before receiving their visas. So while this system sets up a different method for how immigrants granted visas are selected, it does not, in any way, make it easier on those individuals to come here. That’s another fact I’m sure Trump, the GOP, and the conservative media won’t tell you.
So while Donald Trump, the GOP, and the conservative media do their best to exploit this tragedy to ramp-up their anti-immigration/anti-Muslim rhetoric, be sure to remind them that the very “merit-based” system they all claim to want would have already been put in place, except Republicans were the ones who prevented that from happening.