The Origins/Implications of the Diversity Lottery (Post II)

In my first post about my research topic, I discussed the impact of the Immigration Act of 1964 on the development of current American demographics and the electorate, with a particular emphasis on the rise in the Asian American population. This reshaping of the nation’s racial composition was a mostly unintended consequence of the law, and I was curious as to how it came to affect or reflect the value of “diversity” as a plank in platform of immigration policy.

Since then, I’ve turned my topic focus almost completely on its head, and shifting instead to the response to this unintended consequence of the end of the National Origins formula, which brought about a supposed end to racial and ethnic discrimination in immigration. However, this actually turned out not to be the case at all; rather, racial tensions increased as “hordes of Africans and Asiatics” poured into the United States under the new immigration system that favored family reunification and economics over racial homogeneity.

For many Americans, who found the thought of the cultural “other” overtaking the general white Christian population a horrific prospect, this was a serious concern. Many politicians and bureaucrats used racially-charged language to denounce the policy changes that allowed the massive influx of Chinese, Filipino, Indian, and Hispanic populations to enter the country, and demanded reform or even retreat into the heyday of the National Origins formula.

Eventually, a sort of compromise arose, and that became the Diversity Lottery, introduced in the early 1990s. I was surprised to discover that, contrary to my previous assumptions, the Diversity Lottery, which randomly admits 50,000 individuals per annum from “underrepresented” regions of the world, was not all intended to promote diversity. Rather, it was a system designed to favor the entry of white Europeans, particularly from Ireland and Italy, a lesser evil compared to the large and culturally different Asian and Hispanic arrivals.

Over time, the purpose and role of the Diversity Lottery has shifted. However, for a long time, it existed mainly to the benefit of European immigrants, who otherwise wouldn’t qualify under the stipulations of the immigration policy platform (family reunification, employment and labor shortage, or political asylum). It was attempt to, in some way, “correct” the imbalance that the end of the National Origins formula brought about, to keep the country properly white and Christian. Indeed, much of the rhetoric that revolved around its implementation is rather disturbingly racist.

Still, after all my research, I consider myself a defender of the Diversity Lottery as it exists today. The program has come under increasing attack lately. However, while its origins may have been embedded in a desire for racial and cultural homogeneity, its meaning today has shifted greatly, and it’s no longer same racial biases that it once was. Almost all of the beneficiaries in the lottery’s early days were white Europeans; however, today many of the new arrivals are African. Furthermore, the program does provide a much-needed balance or counterweight to the overwhelming influx of immigrants under the banners of family reunification and employment.


About Monika Kothari

I'm currently a third-year student in the James Madison College at Michigan State University, class of 2013. My majors are PTCD (Political Theory & Constitutional Democracy) and Anthropology. This year I'll be researching the development and influence of the Hart-Cellar Act (the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965) on modern demographics and politics. My interests include Quiz Bowl, modern art, vegetarianism, drawing comics, and creative writing among other things, and I'll be participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this November. After graduating, I hope to pursue graduate studies in social/cultural anthropology.
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One Response to The Origins/Implications of the Diversity Lottery (Post II)

  1. michael guignard says:

    Monika, can you send me your e-mail address again. thanks

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