Local immigrant: "Diversity Visa" selection felt like winning a million dollars

Posted at 6:21 PM, Nov 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-02 21:25:21-04

The terror attack on New York City's West-Side bike path has President Trump calling for congress to eliminate the "Diversity Visa" program.

Congress created it in 1990. It was signed into law by President George W. Bush.

Among the San Diegans who are here because of the visa program is Anna Riazanova.

In 1993, Riazanova, a native of Russia, entered the U.S. on a student visa and began studying to become a paralegal.

"I fell in love with the country, the people," said Riazanova.

A year later, she applied for the Diversity Visa Lottery program, aimed at diversifying immigration by randomly selecting 50,000 green card applicants every year from countries with historically low U.S. immigration rates.

    Months after applying, Riazanova got a letter telling her she had been selected for a possible green card.
"I couldn't believe my eyes.  I was so excited.  It was like winning the lottery winning, like winning a million dollars," siad Riazanova.


    After Riazanova was selected, she went through a six-month vetting process, including an in-person interview and background check.
    Diana Vellos Coker, whose law firm has helped dozens of San Diegans obtain a diversity visa says extensive background checks now include additional measures like facial recognition searches.         

    Riazanova passed her checks, then became a citizen 5 years later.

    She has since raised a son and worked as a paralegal in Sorrento Valley for two decades.            
    Critics of the program argue it allows lower-skilled workers in, but Coker says her local clients have been driven.
"These are the doctors, lawyers, teachers and scientists in our society ... They are very eager to do everything properly to live out the American Dream," said Coker.

"I love my life here.  It's the best country in the world and the best city in the world," said Riazanova.