Part 2: Hadi Deeb: Tsar-Consul of Uzbekistan – A Stillborn Baby, An Infertile Woman, and “Why aren’t you Married?”

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As background, some information about the Diversity Lottery is in order. The State Department administers the Diversity Lottery program, which allows for individuals from low-immigration countries with a high-school education or its equivalent or certain work experience to qualify to immigrate to the United States.[1] Every year, more than 10 million individuals from all over the world participate, with approximately 100,000 selected to pursue the 50,000 visas available. The popularity of the Diversity Lottery extends to the citizens of Uzbekistan, a poor, predominantly Muslim country in Central Asia.

The annual Lottery is held in three stages: 1) a registration period, in which individuals submit their entries (in the fall); 2) selection and notification of the winners (spring); and 3) visa interviews/adjustment of status process (starting on October 1), at which time nonrefundable processing fees are paid. For selectees processing overseas, they must receive immigrant visas by September 30, or before September 30 if the allotment of 50,000 visas is exhausted. This means that if the selectee does not receive a visa by that date, his “winning Lottery ticket” becomes null and void.  As a part of the rules, a participant must include information about his or her spouse and minor children in the initial entries, as well as recent photographs of each family member.  The rules are relatively straightforward. Yet this non-complexity has not stopped Mr. Deeb from devising an array of creative pretexts to deny immigrant visas.

Take the situation of Mr. S. He and his wife had one child.  His wife also gave birth to a stillborn baby. Naturally, Mr. S did not include that baby in his entry.  Yet, the Embassy denied the family – saying that they really had two living children. Despite presenting medical documentation confirming the stillborn birth, as well as documentation from neighbors and government officials that they only had one living child, the family was refused.

Or consider the case of Mrs. B. She did not include in her entry or provide a photograph of her 3 day old baby because the baby did not have a legal name at that time nor a photograph.  In fact, the baby was still in the hospital.  Mr. Deeb denied Mrs. B, notwithstanding 9 FAM 502.6-4b.(2)(c)(iv), which allows for the exercise of positive consular discretion and the issuance of a visa in a situation where an individual does not follow to a tee the letter of the DV rules. Recognizing that unique situations will arise that do not fit neatly into the requirements of the DV rules, the Department of State put into place a residual rule that allows for the exercise of positive discretion, i.e., even if a consul believes that an applicant did not comply with the letter of the DV rules, a consul may issue the visa anyway.  The Diversity Visa rules were put into place to combat fraud, imposters, and other malevolent action, none of which was present in Mrs. B’s case.  Yet that did not stop Mr. Deeb from denying the visa – and filling the coffers of the Department of State with Mrs. B’s nonrefundable processing fees.

While profiling is specifically prohibited by Department of State rules,[2] that has not stopped Mr. Deeb from targeting “atypical” Uzbek applicants. Ms. Y lived with a boyfriend and was pregnant with their child.  With no evidence, Mr. Deeb’s staff accused her of being married and not including her husband in her DV entry.  She was denied.  Ms. R, another single woman, was denied because she too was accused of being married.  Ms. M. only had one child and because of hormonal changes, was unable to have any more children. She was denied because of a suspicion – with no evidence – of having more than one child.  This theme of “not enough kids” is common. For example, Ms. K was denied because she “only” had two children. Each of these individuals presented countervailing evidence – either medical documentation, letters from government officials, and/or affidavits from friends/relatives/community leaders – to no avail.

Interestingly, these applicants were all denied under the standard rejection formulation of not complying with the rules of the Lottery program, i.e., none of them was accused of fraud or committing a material misrepresentation although each had, according to Mr. Deeb, intentionally lied and fabricated evidence to support their cases. And while theoretically these applicants would not be barred from playing the Lottery again because of the “standard” denial, the reason for this refusal would mean that even if selected again (odds of <1%), they would not receive the visas.  Should Ms. K include a nonexisting child in her next entry to address consular suspicion of having another child? Should Ms. R get married – when Mr. Deeb believes she already is married?

Some Uzbek Lottery winners didn’t even experience the indignity of being formally denied.  Rather, they reported to the Embassy on the appointed day – but did not make it to their interviews.  Mr. S appeared for his immigrant visa interview at the Embassy in Tashkent as required, but was turned away from the interview – and his chance to immigrate to the United States – because there was a mark on his $20 bill, unacceptable for the cashier. Similarly, Ms. R was turned away from her interview by a cashier because she had purportedly failed to submit her visa application form – when in fact she had.  Requests to Mr. Deeb to reschedule their interviews and correct these travesties were ignored.

This is just a small sampling of egregious cases. The magnitude of such consular tyranny in Tashkent leads one to consider: would such action take place at a US Embassy in Western Europe? If it did, would it be allowed to continue unfettered? Certainly not. The resulting scandal and public outcry would ensure that such action would be immediately shut down. Yet Mr. Deeb – with the continued backing of the Department of State – persists.  Tomorrow’s article will detail another creative denial – and how that denial has led the Department of State to further empower consuls like Mr. Deeb.

[1]   8 U.S.C. § 1153(c)(2). “Requirement of education or work experience. – An alien is not eligible for a visa under this subsection unless the alien – (A) has at least a high school education or its equivalent, or (B) has, within 5 years of the date of application for a visa under this subsection, at least 2 years of work experience in an occupation which requires at least 2 years of training or experience.”

[2] See e.g., 9 FAM 403.10-3(A)(1) and State Department’s Customer Service Statement