PROVIDENCE — Winners became losers and losers had their hopes renewed when the Obama administration announced Friday that it had voided the results of the 2012 immigration lottery because a computer had selected names mostly from entries made in the first two days.
“It’s very upsetting,” said Bill Shuey, executive director of the International Institute of Rhode Island, upon hearing the news Friday. “You give people some hope and then snatch it away.”
“It’s a shame,” said Marta V. Martínez, communications director at Progreso Latino. She said she imagined it would be like “winning the lottery and then being told, ‘Oh, never mind.’ ”
Only worse, she said, because the immigration lottery wasn’t for money but for a future in the United States.
“Your hopes are high, you’ve got your future planned, and then it all falls through,” Martínez said. “The emotional part of it –– it’s just hard to get over.”
The lottery was supposed to be a random drawing from the 14.7 million entries submitted between Oct. 5 and Nov. 3, 2010, the State Department said Friday. Because of a software problem, 90 percent of the winners were selected from entries received Oct. 5 and 6.
The 90,000 people whose names are drawn win the opportunity to apply for one of 50,000 diversity visas which allow people to live legally in the United States.
“These results are not valid because they did not represent a fair, random selection of the entrants as required by U.S. law,” said David Donahue, the deputy assistant secretary of state whose office oversees the lottery. “We sincerely regret any inconvenience or disappointment this problem might have caused,” he said in a video posted at http://dvlottery.state.gov/.
The invalidated winners probably hadn’t sold their belongings or packed their bags. Results of the diversity lottery were available online May 1. About 22,000 people learned that they had won before the glitch was discovered May 5, the Associated Press reported.
The State Department works for months to sort through 90,000 applications and choose the 50,000 who will get visas.
Carl Krueger, a lawyer for the International Institute, said applicants usually learn by Oct. 1 if they have qualified for a visa.
“I’m glad somebody picked up on that” so early in the process, Krueger said Friday evening.
“We will conduct a new, random selection,” Donahue said on the State Department video. “The new selection will be based on your original entry. You do not need to re-apply.” He said the programming error was fixed and the redrawing was scheduled. No new entries will be accepted. Winners will be announced on or near July 15, Donahue said.
The confirmation numbers for registrants to check results will continue to be valid for checking results from the redraw.
The 50,000 diversity visas are for people without family or employer sponsors and no other way of getting a visa to come and live in the United States legally.
Krueger said the diversity visas were designed to help people from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. In his view, he said, requiring them to apply online has restricted the applicant pool because people from the most impoverished places don’t have access to computers.
With reports from