(CBS) — Imagine a lottery where the ultimate prize is America itself — or at least, an opportunity to live here.
The U.S. State Department runs just such a contest. But under the immigration reform that passed the Senate, the visa lottery would be eliminated.
CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley meets some Chicagoans who won the big prize and want others to have the same chance.
Chicago cabbie Sadik Aboagye arrived from Ghana 14 years ago and he got here by luck of the draw. He calls it a “dream come true.”
To foreigners, it’s like winning the Powerball. Winners and their immediate family get U.S. residency — no strings attached.
The program stands as a beacon of hope. Last year, 8 million applied worldwide, and 55,000 won.
Ethiopians Lumma Bekete and his wife know the feeling. His family’s life changed, forever. His son is an electrical engineer. Four other children are college grads. And he just earned an associate’s degree.
But now others may not get the chance.
“We were surprised that Sen. Dick Durbin and the Gang of 8 simply eliminated this program to appease the Republicans,” says Alie Kabba of the United African Organization.
Republicans want more immigration slots for highly educated newcomers: engineers, researchers and scientists. But you don’t need a degree to yearn for freedom.
“It should be retained because that is the only way some of us from Third World countries can come to America to achieve the American Dream,” Aboagye says.
Now, supporters are hoping the visa lottery program can be re-instated in any immigration reform bill that finally comes out of Congress.