Available statistics show lot of Nepali Americans started with DV. But it’s difficult to find Nepalis who admit they are DV winners
On December 20, President Trump attacked all Diversity Visa winners, and the families they bring through different visas. “Countries are sending their worst people to America through DV lottery,” he said. He was referring to an immigrant from Uzbekistan, who entered America through Diversity Immigrant Visa, popularly known as DV, who killed eight people in New York, and a Bangladeshi immigrant who entered America through a family based visa and who exploded a pipe bomb in the same city injuring several people.
He has always cherished opportunities to politicize crimes committed by immigrants.
Trump attacks and demonizes the targeted group first. His is the administration that has reportedly barred Center for Disease Control (CDC) from using the word “diversity”, including the words “science-based” and “evidence-based,” for future proposals. To understand how Trump is redefining America refer to my previous column (“Brown Nepali in White America,” Dec 16).
Trump has time and again attacked Diversity Immigrant Visa through his tweets and demonized the entire group of million plus people from all over the world—Mexicans, Muslims, refugees and now DV recipients.
DV and Trump
Diversity Immigrant Visa, or DV lottery, is a gateway to enter the United States for 50,000 immigrants each year. It is a thread of hope to “American Dream” for all those who do not have financial capabilities to enter America as students or lack abilities to seek other visa alternatives. South Asian countries—except India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh—are on DV list. Anyone with high school diploma or a two years work history is eligible to apply. The program started in 1995 to “diversify” American citizens pool. The bill was signed into law in 1990 by Republican President George HW Bush. Even though it has been criticized as a strategy to stop growing Asian and Hispanic population, by the late 1990s DV had become a program to diversify America in a real sense.
Trump’s claim that terrorists are exploiting DV program is baseless. If people believe that terrorist organizations are putting their people for a DV lottery to capture 0.3 percent chance of hitting a DV lottery, they are laughably unreasonable. If terrorists were that stupid, we probably would not have any terrorism. Consider this: None of the 9/11 attackers came to the US through DV. Terrorists don’t need an immigration visa to terrorize. Yes, a handful of Muslim immigrants who entered the US through DV and family based visas are reported to be a part of terrorism plot. But they did so after staying in the US for four or five years. If they had a mission of terrorizing America, they would have done so within days of entering the country. It is that simple.
The claim that DV winners pose national security threats is as unfounded. A computer picks random 100,000 applicants from millions. The state department through screening and interviews vet each applicant and issues visas to half of those picked. Thorough health checkups are conducted by the doctors chosen by American consulates. The DV winners are scrutinized one more time at the entry point. Since 1995, more than a million people from all over the world have immigrated to the US through DV. They cannot be bad people or terrorists.
Nepalis and DV
In 2017, 900,000 Nepalis—3.1 percent of the country’s population—applied for DV. Chance of winning DV lottery was 0.35 percent for this year. Total of 31,000 Nepalis have entered the US through DV since 2005.
Nepal has been on the highest DV recipient list touching the ceiling of seven percent (3500) country ceiling of 50,000 available visas in the last five years. According to State Department data, almost 600,000 visas were issued to family members in 2017. Nepalis who entered America through DV are also bringing their family members through the family based visas.
Available statistics show that lot of Nepali Americans in United States started with DV. But it is difficult to find Nepalis who admit they are DV winners. As a matter of fact, some Nepali DV recipients are coming openly against DV. DV is not good for America because it opens a path to American citizenship to those who are not competent, some debated in the social media. Probably they are convinced of their own incompetence.
Other Nepalis, who hardly speak English, even after spending a decade in America, are claiming that English fluency should be one of the requirements for providing immigration visa. They don’t seem to care that this requirement will benefit English speaking nations. They tend to forget that English, like all other languages, is just a means of communication and does not, in any way, shape, form or measure knowledge.
Others argue that high school or two years work experience is too low eligibility requirement. They tend to forget that it is just the floor not the ceiling. There are DV recipients, including doctors and engineers, who already had Bachelors or Masters degrees before they came to America. I had my Bachelor’s degree and was waiting for results of Masters degree when I was processing my DV a decade back.
Those who believe in Trump logic forget that half of them would be out of America, if English fluency requirement is imposed now.
DV lacks support from those million plus DV lottery winners. Perhaps they are not comfortable under their own skins. Probably they have literally melted into melting pot of America. There is no organized effort to save the program they benefited from. A sense of inferiority complex prevalent within most DV recipients, lack of guidance and their own sense of poor self-worth, and rather negative social perception against DV lottery, have stopped many talented Nepali DV winners from pursuing higher education.
Through DV, America is receiving better educated manpower—on which America has not invested a single dime. Instead of appreciating them, Trump administration is demonizing them to justify the end of the program.
Lottery is at the heart of American system and provides a fair shot for everyone striving to attain limited resources. Even international students who finish their higher education in America have to apply for H1-B—a non-immigrant working visa selected through lottery system—if they want to work in the US. More than thousand Nepali high skilled workers went through the lottery process to secure H1-B visas in 2017, chance of getting it was around 25 percent. With the increasing number of students seeking working visas, probability of securing H1-B is getting slimmer.
The first lady is an immigrant and she could use, if she has not already, some of the provisions for family based visas. Strangely, Trump lacks soft spot for immigration that is benefiting not only America but him directly. His own mother followed the family members to the US and married his father who was a second generation immigrant. The irony of America today is the son of an immigrant, whose mother came to the US 89 years ago, is the biggest advocate against family based visa. He is bent on ending the system.
There is a strong anti immigrant wind in Washington. Both immigration bills Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment ( RAISE) Act in Senate, and Safe for America Act in House, are meant for eliminating the diversity immigrant visa category altogether.
Democrats look willing to dump DV to save 800,000 dreamers who are losing the status they had through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), 122 per day, according to some estimates. Saving DACA is a priority for Democrats at present. There are no advocates for DV except Congressional Black Caucus. Any bill in Washington without lobbyists in black coats swarming the capital is sure to fail. DV does not have any black coats pushing and cajoling any congressmen.
Most Democrats have already given up on DV because for them saving DACA provides much needed political momentum. That is the best investment for Democrats, compared to 50,000 DV winners who after five years might not be old enough to vote, and those old enough might not apply for citizenship, or worst, might end up voting Republican. Democrats will save the dreamers anyhow, even at the expense of giving Republicans everything they want in return.
Saving DACA and DV does not have to be mutually exclusive. But Democrats do not look at it that way. The death sentence for DV is in making. Ultimate death depends on whether the Congress will agree on a new immigration system—largely a replacement for DV. If DV remains safe in 2018, it won’t be because parties agreed to keep it, but because they disagreed so much that they could not agree on anything including an alternative for DV.
The author is Cofounder at Advocacy for Refugee and Immigrant Services for Empowerment (ARISE), a nonprofit organization based in Massachusetts