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I mourn the death of ‘Green Card’

COMMENTARY
By - Chris Wamalwa | May 26th 2013

By Chris Wamalwa

Early this month, about 100,000 people from around the world were chosen from several millions to get a head-start on a US lottery program commonly known as the ‘Green Card’, in what could be the last such annual lottery, expected to be abolished under proposed new immigration reforms.

Started in 1995, the lottery program leads to the granting of an estimated 50,000 permanent residency visas each year to people from countries that send relatively few emigrants to the United States. This program has progressively benefited people from the African continent, majority of who would have stood no chance of stepping onto American soil through other means and channels.

Heart-warming stories of Kenyans who had lived in obscurity back at home but who, immediately found their mojo upon arriving in America, and who have subsequently transformed the lives of their family members and even whole villages are very common.

So, even as the Republican lawmakers gloat at the possibility of the program’s demise-something that has always been anathema to them for long, Africans are mourning.

More than 18,000 Africans got Green Cards through the lottery last year accounting for the most from any continent.

It is estimated that on a yearly basis, almost half a million Kenyans submit applications for the program. Last year, it is estimated that about five thousand Kenyans won the lottery and subsequently made their way to America. The impact of the loss of a program that has reserved half of its slots for people from Africa will therefore be huge.

The Republican lawmakers who control the House of Representatives drew the first blood when they included a plan to scrap The Diversity Visa Program in the comprehensive immigration reforms currently being debated in Congress. In its place, they have proposed a program that benefits very highly qualified people in the fields of Math, science and technology majority of would already be residing in the US.

A final vote on the reforms is not expected before this summer, but if they pass, the so-called diversity visas would vanish from next year. And, there are all indications that because   Senate panel that has been bargaining over these reforms early last week approved legislation to give an estimated millions of illegal immigrants a path to citizenship. This has been one single most sticking issue. Daggers are now drawn for a show down in full Senate sometime next month over the biggest changes in immigration policy in a generation.

President Barack Obama, who has made enactment of an immigration bill one of his top priorities for this year, praised the Senate Judiciary Committee’s action, saying the bill was consistent with the goals he has expressed.

By a vote of 13-5, the Senate panel approved the bill that would put 11 million illegal residents among them thousands of Kenyans on a 13-year path to citizenship while further strengthening security along the southwestern border with Mexico. Even though there is still a chance that through bare knuckle lobbying the proposal could be amended, the Africa influence in Washington, DC is wanting. This is because Africans in the US have not yet realized the benefits of working together for their common good. Policy making in the US revolves around numbers and influence peddling something that has completely evaded a fructuous African community in the US despite the fact that they have a lot of good will at the White House.

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