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Latino Daily News

Monday December 20, 2010

Winning the Diversity Lottery: Not Always the American Dream

When many think of someone getting the opportunity to come to the U.S. legally, they think of all the great advantages that await them in such a prosperous country, but for the winners of The Diversity Lottery, “winning” doesn’t always feel that way. Paying almost $700 each just to enter the lottery, thousands more to get here if they do win, and entering the U.S. with little or no money, and just praying for employment, many find winning the lottery a lot more difficult than expected.

Each year, the U.S. State Department offers “Green Cards” to 50,000 people by ways of a lottery. It is designed to give those from countries with low rates of immigration to U.S. the chance to come to the America.

Help for lottery winners is virtually non-existent. Unlike immigrants who are “sponsored” by companies or family members, lottery winners tend to arrive in the U.S. with nothing, know no one, and have most likely spent every dime just getting to the country. Without any help, family or friends to inform them of what to expect, many immigrants find themselves “thrown into the deep end” like the Nepalese family, the Regmis, who have been torn apart physically and emotionally having never expected “winning the lottery” to be a bad thing.

Having spent their last $14,000 (US) to obtain lottery entries and arrive in the U.S. after winning, the Regmis have been through the ringer. Leaving Nepal to give their 21-year-old son an opportunity to study computer engineering in the U.S., they left behind everything they knew.

Today, after moving numerous times, struggling to pay for a place to live, and health problems, the Regmis are just one of many families whose lives have changed, and not necessarily for the better.

The family often feel unsafe where they live, but have no where else to go. One night, as their son was walking home from work, he was mugged at gunpoint.

So while the lottery was intended to give immigrants a great opportunity, without help on the other side here in the U.S., it can often have disastrous outcomes.