Immigration Judges Kill Legal Pathway For Tens Of Thousands

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Kaylee Greenlee Immigration and Extremism Reporter
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  • Tens of thousands of people who were selected for diversity visas won’t be able to come to the U.S. because they weren’t able to schedule consular interviews and immigration judges didn’t reserve the visas through the end of the fiscal year.
  • “This administration has overpromised and underdelivered on lawful immigration,” immigration attorney Jonathan Aftalion said. 
  • Several people who were selected for diversity visas sold everything they owned to finance their trips to consulates for interviews. 

Immigration judges killed a legal immigration pathway for tens of thousands of people who were selected for diversity visas in 2021 by failing to schedule interviews or reserve the visas before the fiscal year ended.

Congress allotted 55,000 diversity visas for the fiscal year 2021, and the State Department had only issued 13,200 diversity visas by the time one week remained in the fiscal year, immigration attorney Curtis Morrison told the Daily Caller News Foundation. Morrison represents some of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit where over 20,000 people who were selected for diversity visas submitted their paperwork but were never able to schedule interview appointments.

“The Biden administration has been a huge disappointment. They have requested to preserve ZERO diversity visas, with full knowledge that they did not do their job in adjudicating these visas over the past year,” immigration attorney Jonathan Aftalion, who represents some of the plaintiffs in Goodluck v. Biden, said in a statement.

“This administration has overpromised and underdelivered on lawful immigration,” Aftalion added. “I guess Vice-President Kamala Harris’ ‘Don’t Come’ comment also applies to lawful immigration.”

Several people who were selected for the diversity visa program traveled to consulates in other countries for entry interviews but weren’t allowed the opportunity, Morrison told the DCNF.

Doris Fuentes Matos, 27, was notified of her acceptance into the visa lottery in June 2020, and she promptly sent her paperwork to the designated officials, she told the DCNF on Friday. Matos and her husband waited 10 months for a consular appointment and frequently attempted to contact officials without receiving a direct response.

Matos said she and her husband dreamed of raising a family in the U.S. “where you can set goals and fight to achieve them, where there is democracy and justice for all, where our children can grow and dream freely.”

The Matos’ left everything in Cuba and sold their home to finance their trip to the consulate in Georgetown, Guyana, in hopes of getting an interview. They tried waiting outside the embassy, sending letters to the ambassador and peacefully protesting with other families waiting for interview appointments to no avail.

“We want to say to President Joe Biden that he always advocated for a legal and safe immigration and that is what we are requesting, everything has become complicated,” Doris told the DCNF. “Although the government had an order from Judge Amith Metha on September 9, 2021, to prosecute all the DV-21 before the end of the fiscal year they did not do it like that and here we are seeing how this opportunity escapes, please help us to obtain our green card this very seldom happens again in life.”

Metha, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., reserved 6,900 diversity visas for the plaintiffs in Goodluck v. Biden on the last day of the fiscal year, Morrrison told the DCNF.

“Had the judge not issued today’s order, as today is the last day of the US government’s 2021-fiscal year, the immigration paths for thousands of Diversity Visa Lottery winners would have been extinguished by the Biden administration’s inaction,” Morrison said in a statement. “Now, 23,853 DV-2021 visa applicants can keep hope alive as they chase down 7,395 immigrant visas that Judge Mehta reserved.”

Immigration attorneys representing the selected applicants for diversity visas asked judges to reserve some so they wouldn’t expire at the end of September, Morrison told the DCNF. The decision left around 16,500 plaintiffs without access to visas, effectively ending their immigration journey.

The State Department will decide which selected applicants are issued the reserved visas, according to Morrison. (RELATED: New Immigration Policy Will Expand Access To Work Permits And Provide Deportation Relief For Crime Victims)

“I cannot return to Cuba, there is nothing left,” plaintiff Lisandra Tejera Velásquez told the DCNF. “I have no home, no job, not a single penny.”

Like Matos, Velásquez left Cuba for the embassy in Guyana where she told the DCNF “there is a lot of violence” and the humid climate made her children sick. The single mom wanted to join her mother in the U.S., and she didn’t have enough money to keep paying rent or to buy medicine for her children in Guyana.

The State Department did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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