Law enforcement officials confirmed that Sayfullo Saipov, the man accused of killing eight and injuring 11 in Lower Manhattan on Halloween, entered the United States through the diversity visa lottery program. Saipov, who drove a Home Depot rental truck into a group of pedestrians and cyclists in an ISIS style attack, is an Uzbekistan national who lived in New Jersey and drove for Uber.
In a series of tweets this morning, President Donald Trump criticized the controversial program, stating that he would prefer a merit-based immigration system that awarded visas to applicants based on a person’s ability to contribute to the economy, rather than on a purely random basis. “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. “We are fighting hard for Merit Based immigration, no more Democrat Lottery Systems. We must get MUCH tougher (and smarter),” the President added.
Indeed, thanks to Schumer’s 1990 House bill that created the diversity visa lottery program, many low skill foreign nationals are able to enter the United States, often with little or no connection to the country. The government awards up to 55,000 visas annually to random applicants through the program. The lottery provides a pathway to citizenship and does not consider whether that alien has any preexisting ties – employment or familial – to the country. According to State Department statistics, applicants originating from The Republic of Congo, Egypt, Iran, Nepal, and Sudan have benefited most from the program in recent years.
Congress is currently considering legislation, however, to bring the U.S. immigration system to the twenty-first century. The RAISE Act (S. 1720), introduced by Senators Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.), would replace our employment-based green card system with a points-based system. Specifically, the bill amends immigration law to eliminate the diversity visa lottery program, end chain migration, and limit the number of refugees admitted annually into the U.S.
The RAISE Act also replaces our employment-based green card system with a merit-based system. The bill requires an applicant to earn at least 30 points (awarded on the basis of employment- and assimilation- based capabilities) to apply to receive one of 140,000 green cards that would be distributed annually.
For a fix that is more limited in scope, Congressman Bill Posey (R-Fla.) introduced the SAFE for America Act (H.R. 1178), which would eliminate the diversity visa lottery program. However, the bill does not does not further reform the legal immigration system.