NAACP Lobbies for African, Caribbean "Diversity" Visas

African-American groups worry that the "diversity" visa program may soon be on the chopping block.

Posted: 04/05/2013 10:57 AM EDT
NAACP Lobbies for African, Caribbean "Diversity" Visas

The NAACP and a cohort of African-American groups are using their influence with Congress to prevent an impending reduction in “diversity” visas that often help immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean gain entry into the U.S.

With the program already in the sights of key Republicans who seek to reduce or entirely eliminate the 55,000 visas made available every year, the groups say urgent action is necessary to ensure the program lives on.

“The creation of the diversity visa program was to alleviate the de facto quota, a low number for immigrants coming in from the Caribbean and Africa among other places,” said Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP Washington bureau, according to The Hill.

To make up for these low rates of immigration, applicants from certain countries, including those in Africa and the Caribbean, are randomly selected in a visa lottery.

However, opponents of the program favor a more selective immigration policy that favors immigrant qualifications over country of origin.

“The face of immigration is not just brown,” said Bertha Lewis, president of the Black Institute, according to The Hill. “We have got to be really visible and loud on this because they are coming after the diversity visa program.”

Last year, the House approved a bill that eliminated the program in favor of a plan that issues 55,000 green cards to immigrant graduates with master's or doctorate degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) from U.S. universities. Although the bill was not approved in the Senate, advocates worry that the movement to end diversity visas is gaining ground.

According to Shelton, the NAACP is trying to do the exact opposite: help increase visas and streamline the process of reuniting immigrant families.

"Family reunification is crucial," Shelton said. "Family visas are absolutely crucial for immigrants, whether they are from the Caribbean or Africa."

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