Last week’s terrorist attack in New York City was carried out by a self-identified ISIS jihadist who turned up in the United States seven years ago courtesy of the Diversity Visa Lottery. Unbeknownst to most Americans, about 5 percent of legal immigrants who settle in the United States each year are admitted for no reason other than their names were picked out of a virtual hat. Sayfullo Saipov was one of those lottery winners in 2010 – lucky for him, but tragically unlucky for 20 people who happened to be out walking and biking in lower Manhattan last Tuesday, eight of whom were killed.
Saipov is not the first Diversity Lottery beneficiary to perpetrate an act of terror on U.S. In 2002, Hesham Mohammed Hadayet, an Egyptian illegal aliens who got to remain in the U.S. because his wife struck gold in the visa lottery, sprayed the El Al check-in counter at LAX with bullets, killing two.
Even if the Diversity Visa Lottery had not opened the door to two jihadists, it would still be one of the dumbest laws on the books. The standards for qualifying are nothing more than a high school degree (and who knows if Saipov actually graduated from high school in Uzbekistan). His listed profession at the time of entry was truck driver. Being able to drive a motor vehicle is hardly a unique skill, but there is some sad irony to how Saipov put it to use last week.
The Diversity Visa Lottery serves no identifiable public interest. But, on Halloween, it proved to be dumb and dangerous. There is no commonsense reason for maintaining the lottery. It, along with the failed family chain migration policy the lottery was meant to cover for, should be replaced with the merit-based policy proposed in the RAISE Act, S. 1720. At the very least, in light of last week’s attack in New York, Congress should pass Rep. Bill Posey’s (R-Fla.) SAFE for America Act, which would scrap the visa lottery program, but not address the underlying failed chain migration policy.
Eight dead and 12 injured should be reason enough for Congress to act.
Dan Stein is the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.