Obama-Appointed Judge Reopens ‘Visa Lottery’ During Coronavirus Crisis

Diversity Visa Lottery Michael Noble Jr.AP
Michael Noble Jr./AP

A federal judge, appointed in 2014 by President Barack Obama, has forced the reopening of the Diversity Visa Lottery program in the midst of the Chinese coronavirus crisis.

United States District Court Judge Amit Mehta issued a ruling last week that reopens the Visa Lottery program to deliver potentially 43,000 visas to randomly selected foreign nationals around the world.

Mehta, while upholding President Trump’s suspension of foreign visa workers into the U.S. labor market, ruled that the president does not have the authority to temporarily halt the Visa Lottery program.

The Visa Lottery randomly gives out about 55,000 visas every year to foreign nationals from a multitude of countries — such as Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, Yemen, and Uzbekistan — with minimal security checks.

Trump, through his original April executive order pausing mostly employment-based green cards, halted the program after the State Department had already issued about 12,000 visas to lottery winners this year.

Mehta ruled the Trump administration has “unreasonably delayed processing” visas for lottery winners during the ongoing Chinese coronavirus crisis. He wrote:

To be clear, there is no statutory requirement that every available diversity visa be issued each year. But that does not mean that the State Department could effectively extinguish the diversity program for a given year by simply sitting on its hands and letting all pending diversity visa applications time out.

As part of the ruling, Mehta is ordering the State Department to detail the number of unused Visa Lottery visas for this fiscal year by September 25. Attorneys for visa lottery winners have sought to have any unused Visa Lottery visas this year reused for the next fiscal year.

The original lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The case number is 1:20-cv-01419-APM.

John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter at @JxhnBinder.

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