- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The American Civil Liberties Union said Tuesday that the administration has begun denying visas to would-be immigrants from Iran and Yemen who won the annual U.S. visa lottery, but who are now snared in President Trump’s travel ban.

The ACLU said it wasn’t challenging the travel ban, but said lottery winners should still get the visas — even if they cannot actually travel to the U.S. denying them visas is “grossly unfair,” the ACLU said in a lawsuit filed in federal district court in Washington, D.C.

“Winning the diversity lottery spot is rare and precious,” the ACLU said.

But under the rules, the visa must be issued by the end of this fiscal year, or else it expires and “their golden ticket will vanish overnight,” the challengers said.

The ACLU said the State Department should process the visas now, even if the would-be immigrants can’t enter until later.

The State Department declined to comment, citing the now-pending case.

It’s the latest challenge to the operations of Mr. Trump’s travel ban, which was partially upheld by the Supreme Court in June, with a full hearing slated for October.

Under the ban, as altered by the courts, the administration can deny entry to anyone from six terrorism-connected countries who doesn’t already have a business, school or family connection to the U.S. The administration can also halt refugee admissions for anyone who doesn’t already have a close tie to a U.S. resident.

The six countries affected are Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The visa lottery program has been controversial for years. It doles out green cards based purely on chance. The goal is to give potential migrants from countries without large populations in America an opportunity to gain a foothold here.

But some analysts say its usefulness has ended, and Congress has repeatedly voted in separate bills to nix the lottery.

None of those bills has ever cleared both chambers of Congress at the same time, however.

Mr. Trump last week embraced a new bill that would nix the lottery, among other limits to legal immigration.

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