The U.S. government had two messages about the Diversity Visa Lottery program on February 18:
- Let's expand the program from 55,000 to 80,000 visas a year in the future; and
- Let's allow 7,000 currently valid visas in the program to expire next month.
There may be a lawyerly argument that these two statements are not in conflict, but to the layman it looks like a contradiction.
The Diversity Visa Lottery permits literally millions of aliens to file for a chance to secure one of the 55,000 green card visas issued annually through the program. The applicants have to have a high school diploma or its equivalent, and be from a nation that does not already send us many migrants. It is a particularly useless part of the immigration system, and no other nation (other than New Zealand) uses anything like it.
The government's position, in federal court, that the 7,000 or so currently operative visas be allowed to expire, was reported by Law360.
The 7,000 won the lottery and secured six-month-long visas last year, but cannot use them because of the ban on non-essential travel. They sued in a class action suit either to overturn the Covid-19-related ban or to extend the life of their visas; a Homeland Security lawyer argued that to overturn the ban on the 7,000 would cast the ban in a bad light generally, so he opposed the suit. The 7,000 visas were issued following a court order, and each of them is valid for six months. That time period was set to expire next month.
But on Friday, February 19, D.C. District Judge Amit Mehta decided, according to another Law360 article:
to grant the visa winners' request [invoking] the All Writs Act, a centuries-old law permitting a court to issue orders "necessary to preserve the availability of meaningful judicial review."
He did so by extending the life of the visas for another six months.
So the government lost its argument that the 7,000 visas should die; may it also lose its argument, in a different forum, that the program be expanded by 25,000!