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French Citizen Bogs Down US Courts in Visas Lawsuit Lottery Glitch

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by hearit

hearit's picture
In The News

Of course it figures: Potential immigrants aren't even in the country yet but are already suing the United States government over a "right" to be U.S. citizens. A State department computer glitch killed the "random" factor required by law -- but a French citizen, living in Florida, is claiming harm and part of a class action lawsuit.
The nation's State Department runs a lottery each year, allowing 50,000 wild-card visas to people from other countries. Those Visas go to people who would otherwise have next to zero odds for obtaining a traditional Visa to the United States. Basically that "Green Card Lottery" -- officially known as the "Diversity Visa Lottery" by the U.S. government's State Department -- allows a last-ditch effort for people on foreign soil to immigrate into the country. It is truly a lottery: The wild-card applicants are people who have no legal right to obtain citizenship through any other method.
The popular lottery has about 15 million people apply for the Wild-Card Visas each year, in a battle with only 50,000 - 55,000 available slots.
Millions had applied in the annual lottery for 2012 spots -- when a government computer glitch meant roughly 22,000 foreigners could have accidentally been told they were potential Visa winners, slated to move on in the wild-card process. Not all of the Visa applicants were actually ever notified or even aware of the problem.
Those applicants that were accidentally told they were moving on in the process had to have logged in to the government website, to check their applications. Incorrect results for the “Green Card Lottery” from the State Department were made available online May 1, 2011 -- the problem discovered four days later.
Now those "winners" are suing the U.S. government. And they're not even from the nation.
Armande Gil, a psychologist living in Miami, Florida and a native of France, is among those people seeking a U.S. Visa and now following a class action lawsuit -- for a federal motion filed last week in Washington. The woman claims she spent time and money preparing for her new life in the United States -- and was devastated to find out that a bureaucratic snafu means she may not have that chance. The psychologist and other "Green Card Lottery" applicants want to be reinstated as Visa lottery winners -- despite the fact they were never actually winners for the spots.
The 42-year-old psychologist told the media she'd come to the United States 13 years ago -- to complete a master's degree at the University of Texas. After gaining a doctorate degree from the University of Georgia, the woman most recently trained at the University of Miami in neuropsychology. Apparently that's over a decade of being a "student" that Gil managed to stay in the country.
When the "student visa" ran out, the psychologist claims an impossibility to adjust her "status" -- otherwise known as not really, legally, being a citizen of the U.S. -- or to find work. In a strange coincidence, other residents of the United States are also experiencing that second issue, of not being able to find work -- only they're already U.S. citizens and legally allowed to remain in the country.
The government -- or at least its software -- made a screw-up in its annual, random "drawing".
Up to 22,000 people were told, in May 2011, they'd been selected for Visa slots but would still be required to pass background checks. But then United States immigration officials found out that the "random" selection had actually been skewed by a computer glitch that was favoring a "first come, first served" theory: A programming code glitch from the State Department affected 2012 visas to be awarded by accidentally choosing 90% of the applicants, those slated to move on to the next phase, from the very first batch of online applicants.
Of nearly 15 million applicants for the 2012 Visas to be awarded, 90-percent were chosen from applications submitted online and within just two days of the October 5 start date.
The United States government says it had no choice in a Visa lottery do-over, specifically because the lottery did not perform in accordance with law: The State department had no choice but to invalidate results, to hold a redrawing, because the first Diversity Visa lottery for 2012 spots had not been random -- and randomness is required by law.
Kenneth White, the attorney representing the Florida psychologist who wants to sue the United States over the Visa glitch issued a statement that says, in part:
"There are thousands of specific events that can only begin to explain the pain this has caused - individuals leaving jobs, turning down job offers, selling possessions including cars, cancelling long-term residential lease arrangements, getting married, collectively spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in courier and postal costs to file applications, undertaking medical examinations, undergoing vaccinations, returning to home countries - all on the strength of the in-writing notification made by the U.S. Government."
That's the official text included in the lawsuit anyway.
Life is rough -- in the country and out of the country. But if someone who wants to potentially immigrate to the United States is already bogging down the country's legal system and tearing through funds for Defense, then perhaps the computer glitch should be called a happy accident. Maybe computers really are smarter than people.
Lawyer White continued by adding that the Visa glitch incident would damage the U.S government's credibility abroad.
Yeah, now there will be so many less people wanting to immigrate to the United States -- when they'd have no other way to get into the country otherwise.
The Visa lottery that normally occurs in the fall of each year is now rescheduled for July 15, 2011.

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