State Department Using 'Diversity Visas' to Encourage Immigration to U.S. from Terror-Ridden Yemen

January 4, 2010 - 7:46 PM
The State Department is using "diversity visas" to encourage immigration to U.S. from terror-ridden Yemen.

Map of Arabia and North Africa with Yemen's location highlighted (Wikipedia Commons).

(CNSNews.com) - The State Department has awarded 1,011 special “diversity visas” allowing Yemeni nationals to immigrate to the United States since 2000, the year 17 U.S. sailors were killed when the USS Cole was attacked by terrorists in the Yemeni port of Aden.

The "diversity visas" are designed to encourage immigration from countries that do not otherwise send significant numbers of immigrants to the United States.

The State Department roster of all countries whose nationals have received "diversity visas" to immigrate to the United States in 2010, for example, shows that 2 of these immigrants will be from Luxembourg, 3 from the Solomon Islands, 4 from French Guiana,  5 from Reunion, 6 from Cape Verde, 7 from Malta, 8 from Guinea-Bissau, 9 from Comoros, 10 from Suriname--and 72 from Yemen.  Nationals of the four states listed by the State Department as state sponsors of terrorism--Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria--also received "diversity visas" from the State Department to immigrate to the United States in 2010.  These include 98 from Syria, 298 from Cuba, 1,084 from Sudan, and 2,773 from Iran.

That the U.S. would encourage immigration from Yemen during the past decade is of interest because of the terrorist problem in that country. 

Yemen has long been a focus of U.S. security concerns because of terrorist activities there, including not only the 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole but also a 2008 bombing attack on the U.S. embassy. Recently, the concerns about terrorism eminating from Yemen has intensified because Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab, the Nigerian terrorist who attempted to detonate explosive underwear on a Delta Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day, reportedly joined an al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen and was groomed there for his would-be suicide attack. 

In his Saturday radio address, President Obama himself specifically pointed to Yemen as the country of origin from Abdulmuttalab's terrorist plot, and on Sunday the State Department closed the U.S. embassy in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa for fear of a terrorist attack.

"We know that he traveled to Yemen, a country grappling with crushing poverty and deadly insurgencies," Obama said of Abdulmuttalab during his Saturday radio address. "It appears that he joined an affiliate of al Qaeda, and that this group--al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula--trained him, equipped him with those explosives and directed him to attack that plane headed for America."

Obama pointed out that this Yemeni-based al Qaeda affiliate's threat to the U.S. is nothing new. "This is not the first time this group has targeted us," Obama said. "In recent years, they have bombed Yemeni government facilities and Western hotels, restaurants and embassies--including our embassy in 2008, killing one American.  So, as President, I've made it a priority to strengthen our partnership with the Yemeni government-training and equipping their security forces, sharing intelligence and working with them to strike al Qaeda terrorists."

The State Department’s Diversity Visa Program was created by a provision in an immigration bill signed by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. The first diversity visas were granted under the program in 1995. The purpose of the program is to expand immigration to the United States from countries that do not typically sending large numbers of immigrants here.  Under the program, to be eligible for a diversity visa a prospective immigrant must be a citizen of a country that has sent less than 50,000 immigrants to the United States during the preceding five-year period. This critieria effectively leaves nationals from the vast majority of nations eligible to receive diversity visas.
 
Currently, the only countries excluded from the program are: Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, South Korea, United Kingdom, and Vietnam.
 
Approximately 50,000 diversity visas are distributed each year by lottery to applicants who sign up with the State Department during an annual registration period. The applicants must have a high school education or at least two years of work experience in certain jobs. Applicants can fill out the lottery registration forms themselves or have a lawyer or private organization do it for them.

Winning applicants are selected at random by computer and sent a notification letter. They are given an interview date at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their country, and, if they pass the interview, are allowed to enter the United States as legal permanent residents.

Flag of Yemen

Examples of jobs that applicants can use in lieu of a high school diploma to qualify for the diversity visa lottery range from physicist and surgeon to librarian, park ranger, and choreographer. 
 
According to the State Department and private organizations that assist would-be immigrants applying for the diversity visa lottery, the number of diversity visas awarded to Yemeni nationals since 2000 include:
 
Year          Diversity Visas

2000               63
2001               201
2002               223
2003               44
2004               106
2005               40
2006               47
2007               43
2008               70
2009               102
2010                72
Total:               1,011