Politics

Immigration plan could aid migration from unstable regions, including Chechnya

Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

The Senate’s pending immigration bill would give an advantage to people seeking to immigrate from Kyrgyzstan, the former Soviet republic that provided passports to the two ethnic Chechens who allegedly bombed Boston.

As part of a compromise that would replace the current “Diversity Lottery” program, countries with low rates of immigration to the United Sates — including Kyrgyzstan and Russia — would be awarded five points.

The five-point bonus could have a significant influence on who gets to live among 310 million Americans, because only the top-scoring applicants in the bill’s new merit-based immigration system would be granted green cards.

This system would give a person with a Kyrgyzstan passport an advantage over otherwise equally qualified people from countries like Mexico, the United Kingdom, Canada and Brazil. Those countries do not qualify for the bonus because they send large numbers of people to the United States.

The same bonus is also offered to people from a series of unstable countries that are not covered by the Diversity Lottery, a State Dept. program that annually offers 55,000 green cards to people in countries that send few immigrants to the United States.

Those countries include Egypt, Libya, Somalia and Tunisia, as well as countries alongside the war-wrecked Chechen homeland in the Caucasus mountains.

Russia is also on the 2012 Diversity Lottery list. People from Chechnya hold Russian passports, and — if the bill is not amended and becomes law — may be entitled to the five-point bonus.

The immigration bill’s five-point bonus is also quite large. It is equal to the bonus given to people who have earned bachelors’ degrees in science, math or any other topic.

A spokesman for Marco Rubio, the Republican senator most associated with the immigration bill, did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

The issue is politically significant because the bomb blasts have suddenly refocused the immigration debate around national security in the wake of last week’s terrorist attacks in Boston.

The bonus system is buried in one of several new immigration channels created by the bill. However, the section explaining the bonus-point system is relatively straightforward.