WASHINGTON -- Would-be immigrants who were mistakenly told they'd likely be given green cards are suing the State Department in a class-action suit despite the agency's Monday announcement that it is conducting an internal review of what went wrong.
The State Department mistakenly posted on May 1 that about 22,000 people won the Diversity Visa lottery, which selects about 50,000 people from countries with low immigration rates to come to the United States. The agency voided those results a few weeks later, ensuring that many of the people who thought they would be moving to the United States will now be skipped over.
"Had it turned out that I have started the preparations, sent the filled out forms to the Kentucky consular center and said no to a very perspective job for nothing? Had it all turn out to be in vain?" wrote Anny Guniya, a 23-year-old born in Georgia who now lives in neighboring Russia, of her experience in the lottery.
The original winners of the lottery will be given a second chance in a July drawing. But many are likely to lose the next time around, again in a record-size pool of applicants who entered the visa lottery last fall.
The original results were voided by a computer glitch that selected about 90 percent of the winners from those who had entered in the first few days.
But the result was still sufficiently random because they were not manipulated by any party, wrote Kenneth White, the lawyer who is representing the people who were selected in the first lottery, in a letter to Harold Geisel, deputy inspector general at the State Department.
"Although the results were not as expected and seemed odd on first glance … they were still chosen by an entirely random process," he wrote. "Such results could have happened naturally, and even if there was a computer glitch, as the Department contends … there was a level playing field."
The State Department asked the Office of the Inspector General to review the matter, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The class-action lawsuit, which was filed earlier this week, asks the State Department to allow the May lottery winners, along with the winners of another drawing in July, to apply for final Diversity Visas. (The original winners still needed to go through a finalizing process to screen for people with certain illnesses or records.)
The group is also organizing online to get its message out with an 1,800-member Facebook group called "22,000 winners can't be ignored" and two Twitter accounts. The facebook page encourages its members to contact lawmakers and the State Department to complain about the voided result of the May diversity lottery drawing.
Guniya, who administer's the group's Facebook page, said she still wants to come to the United States, but the country has been badly damaged in her estimation because of the visa errors.
"We would also like to know, if the Government’s decision was triggered, simply by a computer glitch or was it something else that they are not willing to disclose," she wrote in an email to HuffPost. "The image of United States has already deteriorated. And if they don’t fix this issue, it will do no good to their historic reputation."