Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Disappointed winners of scratched visa lottery cry '22,000 Tears'

Last month, when the U.S. State Department scratched the results of its 2012 green card lottery due to a computer glitch, thousands of hopeful immigrants who had thought they'd won a chance to live in the United States were crushed to learn they wouldn't be coming here after all.

So some of them took their disappointment online.

The members of a Facebook group of irked lottery winners called "22,000 Tears" have been rejoicing news that the federal government plans to investigate the visa lottery program, and have been taking some of the credit. The page is named for the roughly 22,000 people who were notified they had won the lottery before being told the results would be voided, and that they would have to enter the drawing once more.

The Facebook page was launched in protest, complete with several videos and a petition urging supporters to sign it "so the US Goverment can do something about it," as the petition page reads. After news stories of a planned investigation began appearing, members on the page today posted elated messages from their native countries:

"God is on our side, we'll retain our victory. i honestly like this piece of news. keep up wit ur contributions and efforts. thank you all!" wrote Rozes Midas from Nigeria.

"Guys..... I AM PROUD OF US!" wrote another member named Marianno Gorgeski.

"we are doing our best regardless of dos final decision but as long as we are trying, we will reach our goal please continue pushing," wrote Zooma Mero.

The Wall Street Journal referred to the Facebook page in its story today, which also detailed the efforts of a Los Angeles immigration attorney on behalf of the people initially told they had won.

From the story:

Disappointed applicants, who hail from the Middle East, Africa and Europe, created a Facebook page dubbed "22,000 Tears" and began collecting signatures for letters to the State Department and U.S. lawmakers in protest.

Kenneth White, an immigration attorney in Los Angeles, contacted the State Department in mid-May requesting that the 22,000 winners be allowed to go forward with their applications and that a second drawing be held for the remaining slots, arguing it would still be a random drawing.

"We have asked the Department of State to honor its commitment, made in writing, to all those who were selected for further processing," said Mr. White in an interview. "Thousands of people were devastated by the news of the invalidation."

On Friday, Mr. White received an email from Erich O. Hart, the general counsel for the Office of Inspector General of the State Department. "The Department has asked the Office of Inspector General to review the Diversity Visa Lottery matter and we have agreed to do so," said the email which was seen by The Wall Street Journal.

The Diversity Visa Lottery Program is one of the quirkier and less-known channels through which immigrants come to the United States legally. The congressionally-mandated State Department program often is referred to simply as “the visa lottery,” making up to 55,000 immigrant visas available each year to people who apply for them via random selection, with results selected electronically.

The program was established in 1990 with the idea of diversifying the pool of immigrants coming into the country, bringing in people from underrepresented developing countries and from countries with low rates of immigration. Unlike with traditional immigrant visas, for which applicants need to be sponsored and wait in line – often for many years – lottery applicants needn’t be sponsored by a relative or employer.

The lottery allows those who can’t find a way in as immigrants via the traditional routes a chance, if extremely small. There are strict requirements, including that applicants have a high school education or its equivalent, and at least two recent years of work experience in an occupation requiring at least two years’ training or experience.

It was announced in May that the lottery results would have to be scrapped because of a computer programming error. There have been other problems with the lottery in the past, including the program being subject to scams.