While President Donald Trump called the suspect in the New York City terror attack an "animal" on the day after Muslim terrorist Sayfullo Saipov shouted “Allah is Great” after killing eight people in a vehicular attack. Trump also called for an end of the Diversity Visa Lottery under which Saipov, a native of Uzbekistan, was permitted to enter the United States. Meanwhile, the GOP-dominated Congress has been sitting on legislation that would do away with so-called “diversity” visas. 

In March, Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) introduced the SAFE for America Act to end the Diversity Visa Lottery. Even so, the House Judiciary Committee has not brought the bill up for consideration. Under the bill, the visa program would be terminated without any other changes to current immigration rules. 

The co-sponsors for ending the Diversity Visa Lottery include:

Rep. Goodlatte (R-VA)
Rep. Hensarling (R-TX)
Rep. Farenthold (R-TX)
Rep. Duncan (R-TN)
Rep. Smith (R-TX)
Rep. Marchant (R-TX)
Rep. Gosar (R-AZ)
Rep. Babin (R-TX)
Rep. Graves (R-GA)
Rep. Hice (R-GA)
Rep. Brooks (R-AL)
Rep. Brat (R-VA)

House Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia released a statement on Wednesday that called for passing the bill. He wrote: “For years, I have called for ending the diversity visa lottery and have sponsored legislation to do just that. Tragically, we have witnessed yet again that the visa lottery poses a threat to the safety of our citizens and the security of our nation. Under the visa lottery, each successful applicant is chosen at random and given the status of permanent resident based on pure luck. 

“This flawed policy is just foolish in the age in which we live. Those in the world who wish us harm can easily engage in this statistical gamble with nothing to lose. Our immigration policy should be based primarily on our national needs, security, and economics and not in part on an arbitrary system.”

As currently enforced, the Diversity Visa Lottery grants 50,000 visas every year to foreign nationals from countries that include those with known terrorist movements. They include: Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, Yemen, and Uzbekistan.

The 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov entered the country in 2010 from Uzbekistan under the Diversity Visa Lottery. He thereafter obtained permanent legal residence. Saipov is married and has two children. Before the attack, Saipov lived in Florida, New Jersey, and Ohio. He may have sponsored as many as 23 other immigrants to the United States. At the scene of the incident, a note was found in which Saipov pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State.

The RAISE act, which has been endorsed by President Trump, was introduced by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) and would also terminate the Diversity Visa Lottery, as would Trump’s 70-point immigration priorities agenda.

On Wednesday, Trump told the media that he will ask Congress to bring the diversity visa program to a halt. “I am today starting the process of terminating the diversity lottery program.” Describing the Halloween attack as “horrible,” Trump said he would send the suspect to the Guantanamo Bay navy base detention center. He also criticized the diversity program for allowing “chain migration,” thus allowing Saipov to 23 of his relatives to the U.S. “We need to get rid of the lottery program as soon as possible,” Trump said. “We’re going to quickly as possible get rid of chain migration and move to a merit program.”

The diversity visa program was a component of a comprehensive immigration bill that was introduced by then House Rep. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and signed into law by then-president George H.W. Bush in 1990. 

Saipov’s relatives represent a security threat, Trump said while blaming Democrats for challenging his efforts to create a merit-based visa program.

Early on Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) tweeted: "I guess it's not too soon to politicize a tragedy."

As a member of the House of Representatives in 1990, Schumer initially proposed his diversity visa program to set aside 75,000 visas each year for the new category of “diversity immigrants” as part of an overall immigration bill.  As passed, the Immigration Act of 1999 included a Diversity Transition program that would allocate 40,000 visas per year in 1992, 1993, and 1994 to nationals of “adversely affected” countries, as defined by the 1986 diversity program. According to Conservative Review, the U.S. has “admitted over 59,000 legal permanent residents from Uzbekistan since 2001.” While Uzbekistan is not on Trump’s travel ban, Fox News' show host Laura Ingraham urged on Tuesday evening that the time has come to include it on the list. 

Erstwhile president George H. W. Bush released a statement on November 29, 1990 heralding the signing of the bill. An excerpt follows:

"Today I am pleased to sign S. 358, the "Immigration Act of 1990" -- the most comprehensive reform of our immigration laws in 66 years. This Act recognizes the fundamental importance and historic contributions of immigrants to our country. S. 358 accomplishes what this Administration sought from the outset of the immigration reform process: a complementary blending of our tradition of family reunification with increased immigration of skilled individuals to meet our economic needs."



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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