Update: DV 2012 mess under review by Inspector General
Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Department of State is to conduct a review concerning the the recently voided DV 2012 results, according to an e-mail from OIG to Mr. Keneth While, the lawyer who as been pressing the State Department to ‘restore the voided results.
OIG was requested to undertake the review by the State Department itself.
The e-mail sent last Friday, June 3, by Erich O. Hart, General Counsel of OIG, to Mr. White reads:
Deputy Inspector General Geisel asked me to reply to your letter to him, dated May 25, 2011. Thank you for your letter and your interest in this matter. The Department has asked the Office of Inspector General to review the Diversity Visa Lottery matter and we have agreed to do so.
Erich O. Hart
Office of Inspector General
Department of State
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Department of State is mandated to inspect each of the approximately 260 embassies, diplomatic posts, and international broadcasting installations throughout the world to determine whether policy goals are being achieved and whether the interests of the United States are being represented and advanced effectively, according to the info on its website. Additionally, OIG performs specialized security inspections and audits in support of the Department’s mission to provide effective protection to our personnel, facilities, and sensitive intelligence information. OIG also audits Department and BBG operations and activities to ensure that they are as effective, efficient, and economical as possible. Finally, OIG investigates instances of fraud, waste, and mismanagement that may constitute either criminal wrongdoing or violation of Department and BBG regulations.
[Update:] I learnt that the Office of Inspector General of State Department sent the e-mail posted above in response to a letter Mr. White had written on May 25.
Here is the letter from Mr. White’s legal firm on May 25th.
WHITE & ASSOCIATES
A T T O R N E Y S A T L A W
Warner Center Towers
21550 Oxnard Street, Ste. 300
Woodland Hills, Ca 91367
Tel. 818-730-3540 Fax: 509-694-9786
(Admitted to the Bar in Pennsylvania and District of Columbia)
(U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. and 9th Circuits, U.S. District Court for D.C.)
May 25, 2011
Deputy Inspector General
Department of State
RE: Request for Investigation – DV-2012 – Waste, Mismanagement, DOS action counter to US policy goals
Dear Mr. Geisel,
I come to you in your role as Deputy Inspector General, with the fate of 22,000 individuals the world over in your hands.
It would be my pleasure if this letter could be regarded as an opportunity. While it is indeed based on a grievance, it is rare, perhaps unique, in that it highlights a situation that is not yet beyond repair and can be fixed. Within, there is an opportunity to both identify and correct a situation that covers three areas of interest to your office – namely, mismanagement, significant waste, and activity that is extremely counter to U.S. policy goals, all being carried out by the Department of State.
The above-mentioned 22,000 individuals were formally and officially notified by the Department of State that they had “won” the 2012 Diversity Visa Lottery. They have received this official notification from DOS. This notification was properly and legally communicated on Department of State stationery,[i] as the word and bond of the U.S. Government. This official winning notification has subsequently been withdrawn following a decision by the Department of State to “void and re-run” the entire lottery. This group of 22,000 individuals has a moral, factual, and legally sound position that the DOS decision to “void and re-run” was inappropriate and wrong based on the facts of the situation that are now known. In acting inappropriately, through mismanagement of the situation, the following negative outcomes are now set to follow:
- Waste: Each year the Diversity Visa Lottery Program issues up to 55,000 visas to applicants who make it through the selection process, as per a congressional mandate. This year, the outcome will be exactly the same – up to 55,000 visas will be issued. (All sides agree on this matter). However, there is a choice as to whether this will be done rationally, with honored commitments from the U.S. government, and with all parties ‘on-board’, or in a much more damaging way. Unfortunately, DOS is currently moving forward in an antagonistic way, arbitrarily and unnecessarily breaking commitments to the original “winning” group, creating 22,00 disaffected stakeholders, and almost certainly triggering a vigorous class action lawsuit which will waste a great deal of taxpayer money in trying to defend. Either way, with or without the legal defense costs, and regardless of a judicial win/ lose decision, the outcome will be the same: 55,000 visas will be issued
- Real and Tangible Degradation of the U.S. Public Image Abroad (Counter To U.S. Policy Aims): Mr. Geisel, it is an indisputable fact that 22,000 individuals around the globe have been misled, and made to feel bitterly disappointed by the past actions and [currently maintained, but easily adjustable] policy position of the Department of State. This is made all the worse because, due to the very nature of the congressionally mandated Diversity Lottery program, a high proportion of these individuals are from countries with “imperfect” relations with the United States, including many Muslim countries. In such locations the attributes of “truth”, “justice” and “fairness” as applied to our government and the American way of life are under question as never before. We must also remember that the individuals we, as a country, have perpetrated this injustice against are exactly the group we should seek to support and nurture. They have expressed an interest and affiliation with our way of life. They have stuck to the rules and not approached our borders illegally – by diligently following the process we have set to apply for this lottery, well aware of the small chances of winning. It is therefore all the more cruel – and counter-productive to our interests – that these individuals should be subject to actions that are unjust, unfair and (most galling) unnecessary by the DOS in their unfounded decision to “void and re-run” the 2012 Diversity Visa lottery. The stories of these individuals is now known worldwide, as the national and world media have picked up on the story, casting the United States in a negative light (e.g., BBC – “US visa dreams dashed by glitch”[ii]; LenzIran – http://www.lenziran.com/2011/05/14/results-of-drawing-of-green-card-lottery-canceled-by-state-department/; Univision –
http://noticias.univision.com/inmigracion/videos/video/2011-05-22/loteria-de-visas-afectada-por). Their personal story videos have been posted worldwide.[iii]
Mr. Geisel, there is a genuine and simple opportunity to correct this situation. To understand this, a brief understanding of the base facts is needed
(1.) The existing lottery was random and fair: Mr. Geisel, no one was in a position of knowledge to influence the chances of a given group or individual winning the initial drawing of the 2012 Diversity Visa lottery. Although the results were not as expected and seemed odd on first glance, with a focus on entries made on some particular days more than others, they were still chosen by an entirely random process. Such results could have happened naturally, and even if there was a computer glitch, as the Department contends, no applicant could positively or negatively influence their chances of winning prior to or at the point of entering the lottery. There was a level playing field; no one could modify his or her behavior for advantage.[iv] DOS could not apply any conscious preference to who was or was not selected. It is valid to say that “The outcome was random and valid, but just not random in the way that the DOS [or anyone] expected it to be.”
(2.) The Department of State has a duty to honor formal, written commitments: This argument is separate to, and regardless of, the position in point 1. It is understood that although entirely random, the initial drawing of the DV2012 lottery resulted in an “unexpected” pattern. However, to the extent this is considered “wrong” or “not preferred”, this is entirely the fault of DOS, not the applicants. As such, it is a wrong and inappropriate action for the DOS to reverse a written commitment, made on official U.S. government stationery, to individuals who fairly “won” as part of the first drawing. There is no basis in the fundamental American value of fairness for those who have already been notified to have their winning status denied. Indeed, any position to the contrary would have widereaching ramifications as to the value of any written position offered by the U.S. government in the future, at home or abroad. Should DOS wish to run a new drawing, they should do so in such a way that already-notified “winners” have this position maintained.
With all the facts, commitments, and matters of justice considered, the following way forward has been proposed.
Suggested approach to solve the error made by the Department of State in the original drawing – without creating any broken commitments, or requiring any additional visa provision
- Honor the commitment made on May 13 to all who entered the Lottery to hold a new drawing by re-running the selection event on July 15 as planned. Use this to create a pool of individuals able to apply for the available Diversity Visa allocation (this pool would be between 78,000 to 100,000 individuals. This is consistent with standard procedures for the Diversity Lottery, where a pool of twice as many winners that can apply for the 55,000 available visas is created – to allow for the fact that many do not or cannot make it through the final selection process where eligibility is verified).
- Honor the commitment, made in writing through an official U.S. Government communication, to all those who were selected for further processing as part of the original drawing in May 2011. It is appropriate that only those who actually accessed their “winner” notification should be included in this group, as only these individuals were truly communicated with. It is understood that this would make an additional 22,000 individuals eligible to apply for allocation of visas
- Make no change to the congressionally mandated pool of 55,000 visas that area available for the DV2012 scheme
Mr. Geisel, thank you for considering this case. My client has every interest in an administrative settlement and it is his express preference that this does not go to court. However, with the views of the group in mind, it is likely to be appropriate to begin legal proceedings if progress is not forthcoming in the nearest future.
In closing, it is worth considering that my client and I embarked on this case with a fairly straightforward view to correct a specific injustice and get my client the opportunity he was promised, in writing, by the DOS. However, the position has changed significantly in just one week as hundreds of individuals have approached me – often dealing with issues of poverty, persecution, and great hardship in their home countries.[v] Many of them have already incurred substantial expense[vi] and taken irreversible steps as a result of their notifications: getting married; selling cars and personal effects; quitting jobs; returning to native countries; terminating apartment leases. The heartbreaking stories of the affect the DOS action has had on their lives has taken this matter to a new and more meaningful level – there is much more at stake than we initially set out to achieve. I am attaching to this correspondence several of their stories.
Regardless of any actions, rights or wrongs, all agree that 55,000 visas will be issued as part of the 2012 Diversity Visa program. Please join us in our aim of achieving this without injustice to an important group of friends and supporters of the American way of life. Please help us to do this by urgently investigating this matter in your capacity as head of OIG. I believe the outcome of your investigation will show that there is a better way forward than alienating and disenfranchising 22,000 would-be friends of America across the globe.
We would appreciate hearing from you with your initial thoughts by May 27, so that we can plan our next steps in this time critical matter. We are available to enter helpful dialogue by request.
Kenneth White, Esq.
- Winning Notification Letter
- May 17, 2011 Letter to Deputy Assistant Secretary Donahue
- DV-2012 Winner Correspondence and Questionnaires
[i] Example in Appendix 1
[iii] Some videos made by those affected can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JK_23uMN0d0&feature=related http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gihogZrd8sw&feature=related
[iv] A simple example: Lotto – 6 numbers drawn 1-40. Computer glitch causes a drawing in which the 6 numbers drawn are 1-6. But no one knew about it in advance. It would seem to be a strange result, but it is still random because no one knew about the glitch in advance, thus they were unable to modify behavior accordingly (buy tickets with those 6 numbers).
[v] More than 1,500 individuals have signed a petition seeking recourse at http://www.petitionspot.com/petitions/dv2012 There is also a Facebook page “US Green Card Lottery DV-2012: 22,000 Winners Can’t be Ignored” at http://www.facebook.com/dv2012
[vi] By one rough but very conservative estimate, more than $500,000