Meng Provision to Rollover Unused Visas Due to COVID-19 Included in Key Spending Bill; Legislation Heads to House Floor
Jul 13, 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security – which has oversight of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) budget and policies – announced today that her provisions to rollover unused family-sponsored visas, employment-based visas, and diversity visas was included in the Homeland Security spending bill, a key measure that funds the U.S. Department Homeland Security.
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) allocates 480,000 visas annually for family-sponsored categories; 140,000 visas annually for employment-sponsored categories; and 55,000 for diversity visas. Due to COVID-19 and the curtailing of immigration operations both abroad at U.S. embassies and consulates, and at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), only a fraction of these visa allocations were used in fiscal year 2020 or will be used by the end of the current 2021 fiscal year which concludes in October.
Additionally, a provision was included that would allow past diversity visa lottery winners, who were denied entry into the United States due to the Trump Muslim Ban, the opportunity to receive their previously awarded visa. Meng was joined by several colleagues in leading the diversity visa provision including Reps. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Norma Torres (D-CA) – who also serve on the Appropriations Committee – and Ritchie Torres (D-NY) and Judy Chu (D-CA).
Meng’s measures would allow unused family-based, employment-based, and diversity visas that were allocated in fiscal years 2020 and 2021 to remain available in fiscal year 2022 and beyond until they are used. The Homeland Security spending bill now heads to the floor of the House, and will hopefully be voted on in the coming weeks.
“Although Donald Trump is no longer in office, his administration’s cruel and destructive policies that kicked immigrants to the curb continue to keep out those seeking family and diversity visas, and those waiting for employment-sponsored visas continue to wait as well,” said Rep. Meng. “It is unacceptable to keep people hanging in limbo, and destroy their chances to be with loved ones or accept work promotions and job offers. As I have said, the vibrant, multicultural nation that we see today is in part due to our current family-based and employment-sponsored immigration system, and the diversity visa program. Our country prides itself as a ‘nation of immigrants,’ its diversity, and its policies to preserve family reunification. As we work to move past the COVID-19 pandemic, we must make sure that unused visas are rolled over and made available so that the hopes and dreams of immigrants are kept alive.”
“The prior administration’s xenophobic and anti-immigrant agenda stood contrary to who we are as Americans and to what we believe as a nation,” said Rep. Espaillat. “As we continue our efforts to repair our nation’s immigration system, it remains critical that we keep humanity at the crux of the immigration policies put forth. I’m proud to join Congresswoman Meng and our colleagues in this fight to right the past administration’s wrongs and make unused visas available for individuals who were unjustly denied them because of the Trump-era xenophobic ‘Muslim Ban.’ We must do better for those who are counting on us to help keep the dreams of our immigrants alive.”
“The xenophobic and inherently racist Muslim ban enacted by the Trump administration continues to affect thousands of people who were prevented from entering the United States despite initially being selected for diversity visas,” said Rep. Pocan. “Though President Biden acted quickly to rescind the ban, there are too many families who were selected in the lottery, but were unable to come to the United States solely based on their country of origin. This amendment upholds our commitment to these families by requiring that we reissue diversity visas to those whose visas expired while this anti-immigrant policy was in place.”
“The Trump Administration’s xenophobic Muslim Ban closed America’s doors to immigrants seeking a better life,” said Rep. Norma Torres. “Countless aspiring Americans – many of whom had already undergone an extensive screening process – were denied visas that would have allowed them to be with loved ones or pursue job opportunities. I’m proud to stand with Reps. Torres (NY) and Chu, as well as Rep. Meng and the rest of our partners in co-sponsoring a provision to ensure every visa denied in years past is rolled over and used now. America’s doors are open again – honoring unfilled visas is the first step we should take to start a new, more welcoming, chapter of American history.”
“The Trump administration's Muslim Ban will be remembered as one of his most unnecessary and nefarious policies. It is unconscionable that thousands of diversity visa lottery winners lost the opportunity to pursue the American Dream because of Trump's brazen xenophobia,” said Rep. Ritchie Torres. “It is incumbent upon us as Members of Congress to right the wrongs of the previous administration to ensure those who have been approved to receive a diversity visa, receive their diversity visa. I am grateful for the partnership of Reps. Grace Meng, Mark Pocan, Adriano Espaillat and Norma Torres to include the Ritchie Torres- Judy Chu Keeping Our Promise Act into the FY22 Homeland Security funding package. It is paramount that we keep our promise to diversity visa lottery winners who were barred from our country by the Trump Administration.”
“America’s vetting system is the best in the world, but due to the cruelty of the Trump Administration’s restrictions like the Muslim Ban, thousands of diversity visa applicants who were selected and approved lost their opportunity to immigrate to the US,” said Rep. Chu. “These were people who had gone through the process and cleared the most exhaustive vetting system in the world, but were needlessly kept apart from loved ones because of a hateful anti-immigrant agenda. Fortunately, President Biden rescinded this ban on his first day in office, but the pain of this discrimination is still being felt by families who remain needlessly separated. That is why I am so grateful that my legislation with Rep. Torres has been included in this bill to right these wrongs and ensure an immigration system that works for our country and families.”