US District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Amit Mehta ruled Friday that the Trump administration should resume issuing diversity visas to immigrants from underrepresented countries. The ruling partially lifted a freeze on a wide range of immigrant and temporary visa processes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The freeze was enacted in June, which President Trump stated was to protect the jobs of American workers. However, the plaintiffs in the case, who were visa applicants, visa sponsors, and their affiliates, argued that Congress had already rejected this line of reasoning because immigration was maintained and expanded in previous economic downturns.
Judge Mehta found that the freeze would prevent diversity visa lottery winners from obtaining their entry papers to be able to meet the September 30th deadline. Because of this, he ordered the freeze to be lifted. He wrote:
To be clear, there is no statutory requirement that every available diversity visa be issued each year. But that does not mean that the State Department could effectively extinguish the diversity program for a given year by simply sitting on its hands and letting all pending diversity visa applications time out. Doing so would “plainly frustrate the congressional intent” to make available 55,000 diversity immigrant visas each year.