The Diversity Visa Lottery program has come under intense scrutiny since it was revealed that terror suspect Sayfullo Saipov, who killed eight people and injured 11 others last month in New York City, came to the United States this way. Now, however, we’re getting disturbing new details about the program, including how many people have come to the U.S. from countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism.
According to the State Department, nearly 30,000 visas have been issued to people from Sudan (7,232), Syria (812), and Iran (20,739) since 2007—the only nations officially designated as “state sponsors of terrorism."
The program offers a lottery for up to 50,000 immigrant visas annually, “drawn from random selection among all entries to individuals who are from countries with low rates of immigration” to the U.S., according to U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services.
That random selection, according to the State Department, is through a computer-generated drawing for foreign nationals to apply for permanent residence, or a green card, in the U.S. each year.
The program originated as part of a bill introduced in 1990 by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., then a member of the House. Schumer’s measure to make a set number of visas available to “diversity immigrants” from certain countries was absorbed into a larger House immigration bill, which was sponsored by Schumer and 31 others, including several Republicans.
That bill was ultimately passed in a bipartisan vote, and was signed by President George H.W. Bush. (Fox News)
President Trump has been very vocal about ending the program, however.
“I am calling on Congress to TERMINATE the diversity visa lottery program that presents significant vulnerabilities to our national security,” Trump tweeted earlier this month after the NYC terror attack on Halloween. “Congress must end chain migration so that we can have a system that is SECURITY BASED! We need to make AMERICA SAFE! #USA.”
Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are instead calling for a merit-based system.
“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).”
Sessions echoed those remarks during a speech in Manhattan earlier this month.
“A merit-based system, by definition, would be safer than a lottery or even extended family-based immigration,” he said, adding, “we don’t use random chance in college admissions and we don’t roll a die to hire people.”
Republican lawmakers have also been supportive of reforming or repealing the program.