U.S. Green Card Lottery Scam Proves the Immigration Process is Anything but Fair

May 1 is a date that many people wait for all year: it is the day the green card lottery results come out. There is an average of15 million people that sign up for the lottery, but only 50,000 win it (which puts the odds at 300 to 1). There is a very low chance of winning, but people hold onto their hopes until the last minute.

Although normally the lottery is once a year, last year it took place twice. The first one was on the normally scheduled date, but after the results came out, they were quickly cancelled. Imagine the disillusion and disappointment of the 50,000 original winners suddenly told that their win was invalid. 

Some even tried to file a lawsuit against the U.S. State Department. The original 15 million losers had, once again, their hopes up, thanks to this unexpected extra second chance.

Why was the first round canceled? The official statement was that, due to a computer programming problem the results were not valid because they did not represent a fair, random selection of entrants as required by the U.S. law. They statement added more details to the explanation explaining that, "a computer programming error caused more than 90% of the people selected come from the first two days of the registration period". They really spotted the problem.

I need to interrupt this story in order to get my point across. I have a brother, who for as long as I can remember has always wanted to live in America. For sometime now, he has wanted to join the U.S. military. I must admit, he is quite a handsome guy, he is becoming a pilot, and speaks fluent English. He applied for the green card lottery of 2011-2012. 

The green card application form asks you whether you have a high school diploma, college degree, or job experience of at least two years. Any of these three makes you eligible for the card. The application does not ask you if you have any other kind of diploma or license, like a piloting licence. My brother could only check the box for a high school diploma, the application gave him no other choice.

Returning to the unfortunate mistake of the cancelled results, it really seems like the State Department's computers were in the mood for some fun when they started assigning lottery numbers like this one: 20121S2PDA2. At first, you may not notice anything odd about it, but if we look closely we can see this: 2012 1S2PD A2, really says: One Stupid. This is the lottery number my brother got, and I am certain similar numbers were given to applicants that didn't have a college degree, or had unwanted nationalities.

My family issued a complaint to the Government Complaint Department and as the complaint was probably read by government employees unrelated to the matter, my brother has yet to receive an answer or an apology.

The second run of the lottery whose first round was cancelled, took place with my brother using the exact same number. My brother was not selected and he had the 1S2PD tag still on. I wonder if Yascha Mounk, the disillusioned New York Times contributor, was selected in the second running or not. I also wonder if his lottery number had a secret message on the tag as well: 2012 1WNR (one winner). 

I am still wondering if we should be thanking the programmer that chose that number for my brother, the number that allowed me and my family to discover the scam. I don't know if the programmer did it on purpose in order for people to discover the scam, or perhaps he is 1S2PD himself.

Another thing I cannot understand, is why the results of the lottery are so different from country to country within the same region. The lottery covers six geographical regions, but Europe and Africa get most of the applicants; other regions, such as countries in South America or Asia, are not eligible. In Europe the numbers are particulary low: Spain had 232 winners out of 45 million inhabitants; Sweden 200 out of 10 million; Germany 1,800 out of 80 million; Armenia 998 out of 3.2 million; an Uzbekistan 4,800 out of 25 million. 

On the official website where the numbers are published, the number of participants is not stated, but it seems strange that countries with such a small amount of inhabitants get such high records of winners. All of this just promotes the impression that the "random" selection, is not at all random. The number of applicants by country, should be made public in order to clarify the data posted.

In my opinion, this event ought to be clarified. Clear rules and results with supporting data should be made public in order to guarantee a transparent process, and instill good feelings about the U.S. to foreigners applying for permanent residence. 

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Olga Ramos

Olga is currently studying to be able to help make a better world.

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