• Global Game of Chance: The U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery, Transnational Migration, and Cultural Diplomacy in Africa, 1990-2016

      Immerman, Richard H.; Simon, Bryant; Talton, Benjamin; Farber, David R.; Rana, Aziz (Temple University. Libraries, 2016)
      As part of the Immigration Act of 1990, the United States has held an annual Diversity Visa (DV) lottery, encouraging nationals of countries that historically sent few migrants to the United States to apply for one of 50,000 legal immigrant visas. The DV lottery has reshaped global migration, making possible for the first time significant voluntary immigration from sub-Saharan Africa to the United States, and serving U.S. public diplomacy in the region by sustaining the American Dream. Drawing on a range of archival and published sources and oral interviews conducted in Africa, this dissertation illuminates how immigration and American global power have shaped each other since the end of the Cold War. It traces the history of the lottery from its legislation in Washington to its operation in sub-Saharan Africa, where, transmitted by non-state actors, it shaped African perceptions of the United States. Sparked by the advocacy of undocumented Irish immigrants in the United States in the late 1980s, policymakers created the lottery as an instrument for legal migration outside of family, employment, and refugee admissions categories. Motivated by domestic politics, and aiming to make visas available to white Europeans shut out of the system since 1965’s Hart-Cellar Act, Congress embraced “diversity” to attract immigrants from countries underrepresented in the immigration stream. Once enacted, immigration attorneys and others amplified the program for personal profit, attracting eager applicants both within and outside of U.S. borders. The lottery was the subject of the world’s first internet spam in 1994, and its operation coincided with the global spread of internet cafés, which became, by the early 2000s, key sites of DV lottery participation and migration commercialization in Africa. The lottery provided a rare chance at geographic mobility for Africans after the end of the Cold War, making it powerful in the countries examined in this dissertation: Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon. As neoliberal reforms reconfigured many African states’ economies in the 1980s and 1990s, individuals sought increasingly to escape in search of greener pastures. Unlike other contemporary migration policies, the lottery unintentionally created a channel of legal access to the United States for Africans. Local entrepreneurs seized the visa lottery as an opportunity to profit from fellow Africans’ desperation and aspiration to depart. They transformed the abstract policy into a concrete possibility and promoted positive impressions of the United States as a land of “milk and honey,” reshaping African migrations and international relations in the process.