Diversity Visa recipients, Congressional leaders, immigration experts and community groups defend the importance of protecting the Diversity Visa Program

For Immediate Release          

Contact: Anu Joshi

ajoshi@nyic.org or 805.404.3225

November 2, 2017


Diversity Visa program keeps the possibility of the American Dream alive for individuals from countries who are under-represented in the immigration system

A recording of today’s call is available here.

New York, NY — On a press call today, leaders from Congress, immigration experts and those personally connected to the Diversity Visa program convened to defend the program as an integral part of the country’s immigration system and a beacon of hope to individuals around the world.

Representative Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Congressional Black Caucus member, commented, “The diversity visa lottery program was designed to ensure that the United States remains a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and multi-faith nation for the benefit of us all. The program has provided opportunity to immigrants who have historically been discriminated against in their pursuit of the American Dream, due in large part to immigration laws that prohibited their participation. I have been a vocal advocate for the Diversity Visa Lottery since my earliest days in Congress and will continue to fight for its protection.”

Anu Joshi, Director of Immigration Policy, New York Immigration Coalition, said, “The New York Immigration Coalition stands strong in our support for the DV program and the important role it has played in creating a strong, vibrant, diverse immigrant community in New York. The Diversity Visa plays an integral role in keeping the possibility of the American Dream alive for individuals from countries who are under-represented in our immigration system. Without the Diversity Visa program New York City would be denied the contributions and cultures of thousands of African and Asian immigrants who have made this city their home.”

Patrice Lawrence, National Policy & Advocacy Coordinator, UndocuBlack Network, commented, “Trump seeks to drastically reduces how many people have the opportunity to legally immigrate to the United States. Trump is against spouses, our grandparents, children being reunited with their parents in the name of so competitive advantage and now false national security.”

Darakshan Raja, Diversity Visa recipient and co-director DC Justice for Muslims Coalition said, “As a recipient of a Diversity Visa I know how important it is that politicians stop playing politics by threatening to end important immigration programs that allow people to flee violence, conflict, wars and find stability. By threatening to eliminate the Diversity Visa program, our government is sending another message upholding xenophobia, islamophobia and racism.”

Pabitra Benjamin, Executive Director, Adhikaar, said, “The lesson from Tuesday's tragedy and any tragedy is not to demonize and scapegoat immigrants, Muslims or the Diversity Immigrant Visa program. After the Las Vegas shooting, we didn't go after every accountant in Las Vegas because that would be a ridiculous approach to the tragedy. The same would apply here. Going after the Diversity Immigrant Visa program is using the tragedy in New York City to divide communities. Instead, we must focus on rising beyond acts of terror like Tuesdays to come together and mourn the lives lost and work towards a better future. A future that people who come on Diversity Visas are seeking for their families in the United States of America.”

Bert Bayou of Rockville, Maryland entered the United States through the Diversity Visa (DV) lottery in 2001 from Ethiopia. When he arrived, he first worked parking cars for the minimum wage. Today, Bayou is a U.S. Citizen, and the President of UNITE-HERE Local 23, a labor union that represents thousands of parking and food service workers. The Local counts hundreds of Diversity Visa holders among its members. He commented, "I am like most Diversity Visa lottery immigrants: I worked hard, went to school, and did my best to get ahead so I could have a better life for myself and my family. Now I am organizing low-wage immigrant workers in Washington to raise themselves out of poverty. I can tell you from experience that DV immigrants already go through exhaustive checking before they can come here. Most are skilled workers with degrees who just want a chance to get ahead. It would be a huge loss to my community and to this country to end this program."

Abed Ayoub, Legal Director, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said, “Since taking office, President Trump has seen four major acts of mass violence in the United States, with the highest fatalities occurring in Las Vegas with a white shooter. Yet while the President has been silent on solutions to acts of mass violence writ large, when the perpetrator is Muslim, there is an immediate, disproportionate response that largely discriminates against disadvantaged minority groups, such as Arabs, Muslims and those perceived to be Arab or Muslim.”