THE annual list of successful applicants for the Schumer DV-1 diversity visas was released again this week, and it makes hard reading for anyone Irish and undocumented.
The Schumer diversity visas called after Senator Chuck Schumer from New York who created the scheme was an Irish American initiative back in the early 1990s after the death of the Morrison and Donnelly visa programs. The idea was that a percentage of visas would go to countries that currently have no access to America.
The view was that Ireland would benefit but by the time it was worked out in Congress Ireland was just one of over a hundred countries worldwide that could apply.
Of course the Irish were swamped out by other more populous nations which has led to the results every year which make us look foolish indeed for not insisting on a set-aside when the program was first mooted by us.
This year Ireland, north and south, got all of 206 visas, the proverbial drop in the bucket. Contrast that with Nigeria (9,849) Egypt (7,229), Ethiopia (6,871) and Morocco (4,922), not to mention Ukraine (7,205) and you get some sense of how an Irish initiative went badly wrong.
Now we have nothing against the residents of those other countries who have secured one of these valuable green cards, 50,000 which are distributed annually, but at some point it is hard to argue that their contribution to America has matched anything the Irish have given. Nonetheless, they are in a far better position to secure visas than Ireland is.
At the time the DV-1 visas were created the major debate in the community was about whether Northern Irish would get treated the same as Irish Republic citizens. The upshot is that they are - and neither group gets more than a handful of visas. Meanwhile, Nicaragua negotiated a 5,000 set-aside after Hurricane Mitch there, something that holds to this day.
At a time when emigration to Australia is taking off as the Irish economy slows, the Schumer diversity program could have been the ultimate way for the Irish to continue to access America. Perhaps it still can be if a determined effort is made to create a set-aside.