Americans value diversity and family. That is why our immigration system generally reflects those values. The U.S. diversity visa lottery, which was enshrined into law in 1990, was created to encourage legal immigration to the U.S. from countries other than those where immigrants usually migrate from, thus creating a greater diversity in our immigration pool.

The recognition that current immigration policies favor individuals who have close relationships with family members or employers, spurred the creation of the diversity immigration visa as a way to stimulate immigration from parts of the world that are under-represented in the U.S. Thus, natives of Mexico, India, China, and other countries that send large numbers of immigrants to the U.S. are not eligible. Diversity visa winners make up about 4 percent of all legal permanent resident admissions.

Winners of the diversity lottery undergo an extensive vetting process. To be eligible for the visa lottery, applicants must have a high school education or its equivalent, or two-years-experience in an occupation which requires at least two years of training or experience, and must be admissible under current immigration laws. The applicant or the applicant’s spouse must be a native of one of the countries that qualify for the diversity visa lottery.

Winners must file the necessary paperwork before coming, submitting fingerprints, digital photographs, electronic applications, and submit to an in-person consular interview and second interview when they go through Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the port of entry.

It is a tried and true system of bringing in immigrants from a diversity of countries. Yet, some will use one anecdote to argue for ending the diversity visa lottery; however there are other anecdotes that argue in favor of keeping it.

One such anecdote is visa diversity lottery winner Rais Bhuiyan, who entered into the United States through the diversity visa lottery from his native Bangladesh. He later became well-known after pleading for leniency against a man who had recognized him as a Muslim and shot him in the face in Texas in 2001.

His attacker, a self-described white supremacist, was convicted of a hate crime and sentenced to death. Bhuiyan explained his work to spare the life of his attacker noting, “I’m trying to do my best not to allow the loss of another human life. I’ll knock on every door possible.” He has since spent his time speaking out against hate crimes and in favor of mutual respect and understanding.

The visa diversity lottery welcomes individuals from different cultures, and sends the message that the United States is a generous, open country that embraces the potential of people from different lands to pursue their own American Dream. This is a message we can’t afford to stop sending.