WASHINGTON — Every year millions of would-be immigrants take a gamble and submit their names for the U.S. government's annual visa lottery.
The odds of getting permission to move to the United States are slim at best — nearly 15 million people applied in 2010 for 55,000 visas — and could get slimmer.
A bill to abolish the annual lottery was referred by the Judiciary Committee to the full House on Wednesday.
Republicans who supported the bill introduced by Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte argued that problems of fraud and the potential for the program to be exploited by terrorists make it a threat to national security.
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"It's an open invitation for fraud and a jackpot for terrorists," committee Chairman Lamar Smith said. The Texas Republican added that the goal of the program, to increase the diversity of immigrants coming into the country, has already been met with the more than 785,000 visas issued as part of the program since 1995.
Democratic opponents, including Michigan Democrat John Conyers, countered that eliminating the visa lottery would essentially end legal immigration from African nations and reduce the overall number of visas available to all immigrants.
The visa lottery was designed to increase the number of immigrants from the developing world and countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.