Associated Press

March 1994

Irish immigrants got preferred treatment in a rare, mail-in lottery that resulted from the 1990 U.S. Immigration Act.

The act provided for 40,000 green cards annually for three years to foreigners from 35 countries, mostly in Europe. The act was designed to favor Europeans as compensation for earlier immigration laws that favored Asians, Immigration and Naturalization Service spokesman Duke Austin said.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., with other Irish backers on Capitol Hill, argued that Ireland had been especially slighted by the early laws. So with his influence, the lottery set aside 40 percent of the visas -- or 16,000 -- for the Irish.

The lottery started in 1991 and ended in 1993.

In 1991, the green cards were offered on a first-come, first-served basis, and applicants could mail in as many entries as they wanted. But after the Post Office was overwhelmed by millions of applications, the INS ruled that individuals could apply just once for the two remaining lotteries.

Austin said the INS is planning another lottery to start in 1995. So far, the Irish won't get any preferential treatment.