Jan 9 2010
The State Department is planning to welcome thousands of immigrants from terror-watch list countries into the United States this year through a “diversity visa” lottery — a giant legal loophole some lawmakers say is a “serious threat to national security.”
Ostensibly designed to increase ethnic diversity among immigrants, the program invites in thousands of poorly educated laborers with few job skills — and that’s only the beginning of its problems, according to lawmakers and government investigations. Al Qaeda members will game the system by submitting the names of young acolytes from Saudi Arabia or Yemen who have clean records and could gain entry to the U.S. to wreak havoc. More than 1,000 such visas have been granted to Yemenis in the past decade alone.
“There are a lot of holes in this program in terms of security and in terms of fraud,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., who has written legislation aimed at killing the lottery. Now, in the wake of the botched Christmas Day terror attack that emerged from Nigeria and Yemen, members of Congress are worried the system could be vulnerable to radicals looking to “play” the visa lottery as a means of reaching the U.S.
Here’s how it works: to avoid getting stuck with 3.5 million others on a visa waiting list, hundreds of thousands of people put their names into the separate diversity lottery, which rewards countries that typically see low levels of immigration to the U.S. Immediate family are allowed to join lottery winners.
Then a computer in Kentucky picks names at random from the qualified applicants, who need only a high school degree or two years at a job that requires two years of experience. The program accounts for about 10 percent of all immigrant visas each year.
Included in the lottery are all four countries the U.S considers state sponsors of terror — Iran, Sudan, Cuba, and Syria — and 13 of the 14 nations that are coming under special monitoring from the Transportation Security Administration as founts of terrorism. Pakistan is excluded because, like China, it sends over tens of thousands of immigrants each year and doesn’t need to be in the lottery.
The program hasn’t been without its cost: one beneficiary, whose wife received a diversity lottery visa, killed two people at Los Angeles International Airport in a 2002 shooting spree at the El Al ticket counter, an act the government labeled terrorism. FOX NEWS
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