Various prizes are winnable in lotteries; from bikes to billions, all are offered if you purchase a ticket. However, there is a prize offered that eclipses most things winnable in an ordinary lottery. For underrepresented groups involved in immigration to the United States, the Diversity Visa Lottery – often called the Green Card Lottery – allows a chance for an individual to win an American Visa. Other ways of gaining entry into the United States includes securing a job, relying on a family member as a sponsor, or illegally gaining entry or remaining past the expiration of visitors visas. Or, you could simply be a millionaire. The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program allows for the quasi-purchase of a green card through a half-a-million-dollar investment in an American commercial enterprise. The United States is an immigrant nation, a beacon of hope for the huddled masses fleeing poverty and persecution in hopes of a better life. However, the two track immigration system serves as a reminder that US immigration policy is designed with America’s best interest in mind, and only willing to accept immigrants that serve political or fiscal purposes.
The EB-5 Immigrant Investor program is the latest example of the two track immigration system (1). The EB-5 program caps at 10,000 individuals and is designed to lure in foreign millionaires to help job growth. According to Homeland Security’s Annual Flow Report, the EB-5 program is classified under the Employment-based preference in the Category of Admission chart (2). Also included in this category are the “priority workers” and “professionals with advanced degrees” that account for about half of the new LPRs (Legal Permanent Residents) allowed into the country every year. Moving past LPRs, the US government allowed over one million temporary workers into the country in 2000 (3). Of these worker, according to Roger Daniels, immigration historian and author of Guarding the Golden Door, the largest percentile of those given temporary visas are already well off. Daniels argues, “the H-1B workers are the aristocracy […]”, i.e. college degree owners, celebrities, and models (4). The US government welcomes immigrants that provide fiscal benefits to the country with open arms. In fact, the bracero program is one example of the US reaching out for “temporary” workers. The US government brought Mexican day laborers into the United States to work on farms and help spur growth of the economy (5). The predecessor to the bracero program, created on the onset of World War One, saw it’s demise at the hand of the Great Depression. This resulted in the scapegoating of legal Mexican immigrants, as well as their forced deportation (6). These are examples of how one tier of the two track system is designed, accepting immigrants and temporary workers in-order to spur the economy act as a fiscal advantage for the country.
The other tier of the first track US immigration policy is of a political nature. One just needs to look at Cuban refugees during Fidel Castro’s reign of revolutionary Cuba. From Castro’s revolution to the year 2000, 900,000 Cuban refugees had been accepted into the United States with open arms (much like millionaires have been received), because of the political, anti-communist, nature of their exodus. The same cannot be said for other refugees. When Haitians attempted to seek asylum in the United States, most were turned away; fleeing a right wing regime, Haitians were accepted in far fewer numbers than Cubans (7). In the year 2000, there were only 49 Haitian refugees accepted into the United States, this in sharp contrast to the 3,000 Cubans refugees allowed into the United States that same year (8). This is the political side of the two track nature of American Immigration policy. Like millionaires, political refugees that serve a political purpose are accepted into America’s lands with open arms.
It is extremely difficult to immigrate to the United States if you do not have an immediate family member living in America, a skill that qualifies you for an Employment-based preference unless you are a refugee fleeing communism. This is the second track of immigration. According to the Annual Flow Report, “In 2011, a total of 1,062,040 persons became LPRs of the United States" (9). 65% of these LPRs were given permanent resident status because of a family member and 55% already resided in the United States when they applied for permanent residency (10). The 55% who were already living in the United States were made up of a significant amount of the “well-off” temporary workers, as mentioned earlier.
According to this report, the average number of immigrants were admitted into the United States per year falls just short of half-of-a-million. This is contrasted with the fact that there were an estimated 4.5 million green card applications that were still pending at the end of 2015 (11). A significant amount of the refugees allowed into the US are accepted to serve a political purpose, the refugees from countries that the US is at odds with. According to Daniels, the number of refugees admitted into the United States in 2000 was 71,143, with most coming from ex-soviet states, Cuba, and Iran. There is a very small amount of immigrants and refugees that are accepted into the United States on the second tier, ones that does not aid America in a political or fiscal way.
The two tier system of United States Immigration policy emphasizes a method of accepting “desirable” refugees into the country over “the huddled masses”, the latter of which was the romanticized image that American immigration was based on. Allowing 10,000 millionaires into the country shows the imbalance in America’s immigration policy when contrasting it with the 50,000 lottery winners allowed into the country and the 4.5 million green card applications left pending at the end of 2015.
Nicholas Henrietta is a senior at California State East Bay, majoring in California History with a minor in Philosophy. He likes sports, music, and long walks on the beach at dusk. He is certified gluten free (though he may still contain significant amounts of GMOs and dairy products).
1. Kenneth Rapoza, "Why Congress Will Extend The EB-5 Immigrant Visa Program," Forbes September 27, 2016.
2. Randall Monger and James Yankay, “U.S. Legal Permanent Residents: 2011,” Department of Homeland Security Office of Immigration Statistics: Annual Flow Report (April 2012), page 3
3. Roger Daniels, Guarding the Golden Door: American Immigration Policy and Immigrants since 1882. New York: Hill and Wang, 2004., 257
4. Ibid, 258
5. Camille Guerin-Gonzales, Mexican Workers and American Dreams: Immigration, Repatriation, and California Farm Labor, 1900-1939. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1994., 135
6. Ibid 83
7. Daniels, 206
8. Ibid 211
9. Randall Monger, and James Yankay, Annual Flow Report, U.S. Legal Permeant Residents: 2011. April 2012., 1
11. DOS, “Annual Report of Immigrant Visa Applicants in the Family-sponsored and Employment-based preferences Registered at the National Visa Center as of November 1, 2015,” (2015), 3