Clarke urges Biden to amend Diversity Visa Program

Clarke outraged over public charge rule decision
Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke.
Photo by Nelson A. King

Caribbean American Democratic Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke on Tuesday joined New York’s Congresswoman Grace Meng (NY-06), Congressman Ritchie Torres (NY-15) and 46 of their colleagues in dispatching a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging the Joe Biden administration to either rescind or amend the Diversity Visa Program and remove the unnecessary restrictions of the Passport Rule.

The Diversity Visa Program was originally created, within the State Department, to grant visas to countries with low immigration rates to the United States.

The previous Donald Trump administration made many unsuccessful attempts to end the program all together.

But, Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigration said Trump was, successful to include “more restrictions and hurdles for applicants.”

By way of the unnecessary requirements of the Passport Rule, applicants from developing countries, such as those in the Caribbean, are “too restricted and overburdened to participate in the Diversity Visa Program,” said Clarke, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn.

“This has significantly undermined access to the Diversity Visa Program, as well as tarnished the symbolism and spirit in which the program was enacted; to encourage ‘new seed’ immigration from regions and nations that did not send many immigrants under our family or employment-based systems,” she added. “That is why, I am urging Secretary Blinken to rescind or amend the 2019 Interim Final Passport Rule that requires applicants to invest in a passport before they are able to apply for the program.

“Because the chances of winning the lottery are very low and the financial burden is disproportionately high, this rule affects millions of applicants discouraged from applying due to the costs associated with obtaining a passport they may never get to use,” Clarke continued. “We are a nation of immigrants and diversity is not just our strength, it is our superpower. It is a fundamental understanding of our commitment to human rights. And so, we must make it easier to accept newcomers, not harder.

Meng said the Diversity Visa Program has been “a long-standing initiative in our country, promoting a core value that our nation was founded on; that people from all backgrounds can come to the US in search of a more prosperous life and to achieve their American Dream.

“But the Trump administration, fueled by its anti-immigrant agenda, implemented the Passport Rule that placed massive financial burdens on immigrants by requiring applicants to obtain a passport before they are able to enter the Diversity Visa lottery,” she said. “This Rule is unconscionable and antithetical to the original intent of the Diversity Visa Program.

“We are a nation founded by immigrants and a nation made stronger by its diversity,” Meng added. “Requiring potential applicants to hold a passport prior to applying for the Diversity Visa lottery only acts as a deterrent to millions of potential new Americans.

“That is why the Secretary must take action on this rule,” she continued. “We eagerly await his response to our letter.”

Torres said: “The Trump administration’s xenophobic immigration policies have left a hateful stain on our nation’s legacy.

“It is incumbent upon the Biden administration to rescind all of the last administration’s harmful policies,” he urged. “The repeal of the Passport Rule to the Diversity Visa Program is yet another important step in reversing racist policies and restoring our commitment to human rights.

“As a global leader we must enact policy that reflects our values of inclusivity and diversity,” Torres added.

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