The Diversity Visa Lottery program, which has come under scrutiny since the Oct. 31 terror attack in New York City that killed eight people, has brought in more than 28,000 people in the last 10 years from nations that are considered state sponsors of terrorism.
Sayfullow Saipov, who is accused of the New York City attack, was admitted to the U.S. from Uzbekistan through the Diversity Visa Lottery Program.
Under the program, visa applicants from nations that traditionally have low levels of immigration to the U.S. enter a lottery. Winners are awarded visas.
The program awards 50,000 visas per year.
According to State Department data released recently, since 2007, the U.S. has admitted 20,739 individuals from Iran; 7,232 from Sudan, and 812 from Syria through the program.
Iran, Sudan and Syria are all designated by the State Department as “state sponsors of terrorism.”
Ever since the terrorist attack, the program has been denounced by President Donald Trump.
“The terrorist came into our country through what is called the ‘Diversity Visa Lottery Program,’ a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based,” Trump tweeted.
The terrorist came into our country through what is called the "Diversity Visa Lottery Program," a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 1, 2017
“I am calling on Congress to TERMINATE the diversity visa lottery program that presents significant vulnerabilities to our national security,” Trump later tweeted. “Congress must end chain migration so that we can have a system that is SECURITY BASED! We need to make AMERICA SAFE! #USA.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has also called for the program to be overhauled.
“A merit-based system, by definition, would be safer than a lottery or even extended family-based immigration,” Sessions has said, adding, “we don’t use random chance in college admissions and we don’t roll a die to hire people.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., agreed and said “it makes no sense” to hand out visas in a random fashion.
“While Senate Democrats originally created the Diversity Visa Lottery in 1990, many have supported legislation that would have eliminated it in the years since,” said Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., in a statement. “I hope we can include this area of common ground as we work to fix our broken immigration system and strengthen our national security.”
The weakness of the program has long been known.
“One of the main national security weaknesses that experts have identified in the diversity visa program is the lack of restrictions on admissions,” the House Judiciary Committee wrote in a 2004 report.
“First, there are few restrictions on the countries from which applicants may come. … Second, under the program, successful applicants are chosen at random. Consequently, those aliens who win the diversity visa lottery do not necessarily have any ties to the United States. … Because diversity visa winners do not necessarily have such ties, the program could offer an opportunity for individuals or groups who want to harm the United States, its institutions, and its people to place terrorists in the United States,” the report said.
“Any potential terrorist who did win the diversity visa lottery could live here freely, and come and go with little scrutiny,” it said.
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