Dreamland: America’s Immigration Lottery in an Age of Restriction

Univ. of North Carolina. May 2023. 400p. ISBN 9781469673042. $30. HIST
Historian Goodman, a senior editor of the Washington Post’s “Made by History” blog, traces the history of the Diversity Immigrant Visa lottery program, started in 1990 to give individuals and families—up to 50,000 people a year—a chance to obtain green cards. The author takes an extensive look at the program’s origins, its problems with changing rules and quotas, and its present state. According to the author, the U.S. is responsible both for some of the conditions in African countries that cause people to want to leave and for the “land of opportunity” image portrayed in much of the media they see. Still, relatively few visas are granted to Africans through the lottery. The book also shows the program’s impact on the development of internet spam and scams and the range of experiences of lottery winners, who often discover they have escaped from oppression or poverty in their home countries only to encounter racism in the U.S.
VERDICT Essential reading for those interested in the past and future of U.S. immigration policy.
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