President Donald Trump has called on Congress to abolish the Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) Program, through which the suspect in last week’s New York terror attack entered the country. He called the program, informally known as the Green Card lottery, a disaster for the country.
“This program grants visas not on a basis of merit, but simply because applicants are randomly selected in an annual lottery and the people put in that lottery are not that country’s finest.”
The president added that “the program presents significant vulnerabilities to our national security.”
“The idea that someone could just enter a lottery and in effect draw a U.S. citizenship out of a hat is not my idea of a good program.” Washington immigration lawyer Kenneth Rinzler agrees, but he says the problem is not vetting.
“It’s not legitimate to use the recent terrorist attack to knock this program because they have to go through the same vetting as everybody else,” he says referring to the process the U.S. government uses to clear each applicant for immigration in the United States.
Rinzler believes that there are concerns about all green card vetting; therefore it makes no sense to single out diversity visas.
Uzbek native Sayfullo Saipov is accused of driving a rented truck down a crowded New York City bike path, killing eight people and injuring more than a dozen others. Investigators say Saipov told them he was inspired to conduct the attack by Islamic State videos. He faces federal terror-related charges.
Saipov is the fifth DV program beneficiary to be connected with a terrorist attack in the U.S. since the program was started in 1990. The program grants 50,000 green cards a year to countries with low immigration rates to the United States, mainly from Africa and Eastern Europe.
In 2003, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the State Department Inspector General raised concerns that aliens from countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism can apply for diversity visas.
But in a 2007 report, the Government Accountability Office concluded that the DV program isn’t so much a threat to U.S. national security, as it is open to fraud by and against applicants.
A White House official, speaking on background, told VOA that “ending the diversity [visa] lottery program was already part of the immigration reform principles the White House submitted to Congress, and is included in the RAISE Act, which the president has endorsed.”