A visa lottery that has enabled thousands of Ethiopian to establish US residency will come to an end if Congress and President Trump approve legislation proposed on Tuesday by two senators.
The 27-year-old Diversity Visa program, commonly known as the Green Card Lottery, awards permanent resident status to about 50,000 persons per year from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the US.
A total of 5,000 Ethiopians, out of 193,641 applicants, won the right to live and work in the US in the lottery for 2015, the latest year for which statistics are available.
The diversity visa programme is “outdated,” said Senator David Perdue, co-sponsor of legislation that aims to kill the lottery.
The proposal he presented jointly with Senator Thomas Cotton would return the number of immigrants from developing countries to what Senator Perdue described as lower “historically normal levels of legal immigration.”
The two Republican lawmakers, both strong supporters of President Trump, are also seeking to sharply limit the types of family members that US citizens and permanent residents can sponsor for admission to the country.
Under the Cotton-Perdue legislation, only spouses and unmarried children of US citizens and permanent residents would be potentially eligible for green cards.
The law currently covers spouses, married and unmarried children, parents and siblings of green card holders and US citizens.
The two senators said they have consulted with President Trump in drafting their proposal to scale back total lawful immigration to the US from roughly one million to 500,000 persons per year. But they did not indicate whether the president intends to endorse their proposal.
It is likely to face strong opposition from the Democratic minority in both the Senate and US House of Representatives.
But even if every Democrat in Congress were to vote against the bill, it could still become law with unified Republican support and the backing of President Trump.
At least a few Republicans may not favor the initiative, however.
Among the potential opponents is Senator John McCain, an influential Republican who ran for president against Barack Obama in 2008.
Senator McCain told reporters that he disagreed with the effort to slash immigration to the US, saying the country has benefitted from the contributions of many Americans who were born in other countries.