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The Diversity Visa Program and Issues of National Security; By Danielle Beach-Oswald

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Once again, policy leaders are facing the difficulties of having to juggle between following our country's immigration laws and balancing the issue of national security.  It wasn't until soon after the September 11th terrorist attacks that the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) was launched.  Although NSEERS was terminated in April of 2011, over 82,000 individuals from 25 nations complied with the registration requirements.    Now there are new concerns regarding the Diversity Visa Program and potential National Security Issues.


According to Rep. Goodlette of Virginia, the Diversity Visa Lottery Program is "a national security threat."  Rep. Goodlette is the creator of the Security and Fairness Enhancement (SAFE) Act which is currently under debate in the House of Representatives.  If the bill becomes law, the SAFE Act will eliminate the Diversity Visa Lottery Program in its entirety.  Although it has passed the House Judiciary Committee, it's status remains uncertain as it has yet to go to the full House floor for a vote. 


The Obama Administration is taking a different perspective on the diversity visa lottery program by labeling certain countries as "countries of interest."  Countries of interest are determined by the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) and any individual that has traveled through or holds a passport from such a country must go through stricter security measures when passing through Customs and Border Patrol in the United States.  TSA created the countries of interest category after a Nigerian terrorist attempted to detonate an underwear bomb on a flight bound for Detroit.   The current countries on the list are Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen.


In the current phase of the Diversity Visa Lottery Program, the Department of State is considering the applications of over 9,036 individuals from such countries of high interest.    However, the SAFE Act doesn't remain a viable alternative to eliminating the Diversity Visa Lottery Program.  Although the Diversity Visa Lottery Program may have its problems, it remains one of the few ways that an individual can immigrate to the United States without a sponsor.  Rather than trying to eliminate the program because of National Security concerns, policy leaders should strive for enhanced background checks from countries of interest and capping the numbers from such countries rather than eliminating the Diversity Visa Lottery Program in its entirety.   

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