By Siranuysh Gevorgyan
YEREVAN (ArmeniaNow) — Tens of thousands of citizens of Armenia filed for the US Diversity Visa, better known as the green card lottery, in 2011 and one in a hundred were actually selected and given a chance to pursue their “American Dream.” But the odds that the lottery held for about two decades now will survive no longer appear great as the measure encouraging diversity in US legal immigration may become a tradeoff for a new bipartisan immigration reform package being debated by legislators on Capitol Hill this month.
Armenia appears to have one of the largest per capita rates of applications for the Green Card lottery as revealed by the US Embassy in Yerevan. Thus, about 100,000 of the country’s roughly 3 million people sought to win permanent residence in the US in 2011. In neighboring Georgia and Azerbaijan the figures were more modest — 53,000 and 25,000, respectively, whereas the populations in these countries are estimated at 4.5 million and 9.3 million, accordingly.
During the 17 years since the Diversity Visa was first introduced in 1995, about 21,000 citizens of Armenia left for permanent residence to the US as green card lottery winners, said the US Embassy in Yerevan. But the lucky winners of this year (the results were due on May 1 and officially winners are expected to be notified in August) may be the last to enjoy the privilege.
US President Barack Obama, who was reelected for a second term last year, declared immigration reform a priority of his administration. Speaking before the Senate on June 11, Obama said overhauling America’s dysfunctional immigration system cannot wait. “The system is still broken. And to truly deal with this issue, Congress needs to act. And that moment is now,” said Obama, a son of an immigrant from Kenya.
The legislation being considered would create a path to US citizenship for many of the 11 million people who are in the country illegally. It would also further strengthen security at the US-Mexican border. In addition, Obama said the legislation would make it easier for foreign students to stay in the US.