Wednesday, November 1, 2017
It did not take long for President Trump to start trying to make political hay out of yesterday's violence in New York City.
Trump said on Twitter that the driver in yesterday's attack "came into our country through what is called the 'Diversity Visa Lottery Program,' a Chuck Schumer beauty" — a reference to the Senate's Democratic leader.
Schumer fired back from the Senate floor, accusing Trump of "politicizing" the tragedy.
Officials said the attacker is an immigrant from Uzbekistan who came to the United States legally in 2010. They haven't said whether he was admitted through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, which covers immigrants from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S.
Trump also tweeted: "We are fighting hard for Merit Based immigration, no more Democrat Lottery Systems. We must get MUCH tougher (and smarter)." Trump has backed legislation that would curb legal immigration and shift the nation toward a system that would place an emphasis on merit and skills over family ties.
The tweets followed Trump's Tuesday night statement that he ordered the Department of Homeland Security "to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program." Trump's policy entails more stringent investigative measures intended to identify would-be immigrants who may sympathize with extremists or pose a national security risk to the United States.
By way of background, the diversity visa program was added to the immigration laws by the Immigration Act of 1990. Senator Schumer was not in the Senate until 1999 but was in the House at the time. Senator Ted Kennedy is known as the champion of the diversity visa program, which initially included a certain number of visas for Irish immigrants. Schumer does not appear to have played much of a role in the passage of the Immigration Act of 1990.
The diversity visa program provides 50,000 visas a year in a system that generates 1 million immigrants a year. It thus is a small part of our immigration system. The visas are allocated by lottery to nations that send relatively few immigrants to the United States and is designed to diversify the immigrant stream. Because visas are allocated by lottery, it is hard to see how the system could be easily manipulated by those who want to do harm to the United States.
I am not aware of the diversity visa system being used as a route by terrorists for entry into the United States.
Despite President Trump's suggestion to the contrary, the visa checks for all immigrant visas are basically the same. All immigrants are subject to the same security checks, application process, interviews, etc. The vetting is the same for all immigrants.