Dear Mr President
In just over two weeks I will present myself at the USCIS desk in Honolulu airport, clutching a large yellow envelope, ready to start my life as a US lawful permanent resident.
I’m entering the US as a Diversity Lottery winner. You remember the Diversity Lottery, don’t you? It’s the program you have demonised, ridiculed and vowed to repeal.
Now I’m not against the scrapping of the DV Lottery – it’s a strange program that has its roots in racism – but I do have a problem with you misrepresenting the program, and in turn, tarring DV Lottery winners as “the worst people”.
Recently, you said the DV Lottery involved “countries putting all the people they don’t want into a draw and we take them”. I’m paraphrasing here… I may not have the language exactly right, but I believe I got the spirit of your words.
That’s a lie – and either you know that, or you’ve been seriously misled. I hope it’s the latter. So, to help you better understand the truth, let me explain my story.
I’m not a bad hombre. I don’t come from a small mud hut in a village somewhere and I’m definitely not a rapist. I’m a university educated media manager. I spend over a decade as a working journalist. I now work for the New South Wales Government. And I earn a decent wage.
I’m not moving to the US because I see it as my ticket to the good life. I have that here in Australia – but I’m just an Aussie bloke who has long dreamed about moving to the United States.
As I explained in a previous article on this blog, I feel a deep connection to the US. But the reality is that I don’t have family in the US. The options for me to immigrate are limited.
I have the skills to enter on a work visa, but that’s a long process that doesn’t guarantee I can stay in the country I have chosen to set up my home if I lose my job. The DV Lottery offers that.
So in reality, the DV Lottery program is the only chance I had to secure my American dream.
Now let me address the outrageous lie in your statement – namely that we are nominated by our country as people they don’t want. There is nothing in that statement anywhere near the truth. Let me tell you how I ended up here.
In November 2016, my wife and I (along with 16 million other hopefuls from across the world) entered the DV Lottery program. This involved filling in an online form outlining our name, family history and other identifying information. It costs nothing, but the odds of being selected are outrageously small.
From there, the US State Department do preliminary testing, ensuring we’re not on any “no entry” lists and we’re the type of people the US would welcome. Then, in May 2017, I was luckily enough to be amongst the 115,000 people selected to continue the process.
It’s important to note here that I said I was selected for further processing – I most certainly didn’t win the lottery. It’s not that easy.
You might also note that I said 115,000 people were selected – that’s a LOT more than the 55,000 visas available (let alone all the family members who will be included in the process and count towards that 55,000).
That’s because the process is long, invasive, torturous and expensive. A lot will fall by the wayside before they receive their green card in the post some years after the process begins – whether that be from non-entry, rejection or simply because too many people were selected (and thus they never get their chance).
Anyway, back to my story. The next step is filling out a DS260, which is a highly invasive form. This enables the NVC to review our history, everywhere we’ve ever worked, lived, volunteered and supported.
The NVC thoroughly checks all the information and then sends it through to a local embassy for interview. That’s right, we must attend a local US embassy or consulate for a face-to-face interview with a trained US citizen to see if we are the “right type of people”.
Thanks to a low case number, and the fact I’m a pretty nice guy, we passed that interview on October 10, and that followed a full day medical to ensure there isn’t anything wrong with us that may increase the pressure on the US health system.
Oh, and I should explain why I said the process is expensive. Between the cost of the medical, the interview (DV Lottery winners must pay all the cost of the process to not impact the US economy), the processing fee and the card creation fee we have spent close to US$3000 between us so far – and that doesn’t include the cost of the international flight, hotels and the cost of setting up in a new country.
The reality is I can afford that, but there’s plenty of people who can’t – yet they manage to scrape the funds together to live the US dream. Again, these people are risking everything to make a better life for themselves – they are certainly not just bad hombres.
If you want to hear these people’s voices visit britsimonsays.com. It doesn’t take long to before you encounter the desperation and exhaustion of people participating in the process… and those fearing they may never get the chance.
America is a land of immigration. Wave after wave of people have made the trip to the US – and its beauty and majesty is carried on the shoulders of the heaving masses of humanity who have washed up on your shores. Hell, the importance of immigration is even inscribed on the plinth of that large lady on Ellis Island. Please don’t sully that noble sentiment for cheap political point scoring.
I’m truly blessed to be given this chance, and I’m grateful to the US for allowing me the opportunity. And as I said before, I think there are some serious issues with the DV Lottery process. I come from a country you hold up as an exemplar of successful immigration. And it’s a pretty good system. But please, don’t tar us with any epitaphs without getting to know us, and why we all dream of coming to America.