Washington, DC, USA : Following the terror attack in lower Manhattan Tuesday by 29-year-old Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, Uzbekistan national, who came to the United States through the diversity visa lottery program in 2010, President Trump on Wednesday called for ending the diversity visa lottery program and said he would start “the process of terminating” it.
The terrorist came into our country through what is called the “Diversity Visa Lottery Program,” a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based. — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 1, 2017.
We are fighting hard for Merit Based immigration, no more Democrat Lottery Systems. We must get MUCH tougher (and smarter). — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 1, 2017
“Senator Chuck Schumer helping to import Europes problems” said Col.Tony Shaffer. We will stop this craziness! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 1, 2017
Senator Chuck Schumer, who played a role in the program’s conception in the 1990s, responded a short time later, accusing Trump of being divisive during a national tragedy. Eight people were killed in the attack in lower Manhattan.
“President Trump, instead of politicizing and dividing America, which he always seems to do at times of national tragedy, should be focusing on the real solution — anti-terrorism funding — which he proposed cutting in his most recent budget,” Schumer said.
“I’m calling on the President to immediately rescind his proposed cuts to this vital anti-terrorism funding.”
Trump embraced a proposal from two GOP senators to curb legal immigration. It would put more emphasis on allowing immigrants to come to the United States based on their job skills, and not on family ties to people already in the country.
Senators signaled on Wednesday that they are open to ending a controversial immigration program that President Trump wants to shut down in the wake of the New York City terrorist attack.
The program was created by an immigration law in 1990, so ending it would require action from Congress. While there are early signs of divisions over how to scrap the program, senators stressed they were broadly supportive of the idea.
“We ought to be more focused and more merit oriented when it comes to our immigration program. There’s always going to have to be a combination of family-based immigration, but we also ought to reward people who we want to see come to this country and help us grow our economy,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who supports the president’s efforts, told reporters.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) noted legislation would take time, but added, “count me in for wanting to eliminate the lottery system for merit-based immigration.”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), asked if Democrats would be open to getting rid of the lottery, said: “Of course we would. Let me just tell you something: that was part of the [comprehensive immigration] reform [bill].”
The 2013 bill would have ended the diversity visa lottery program, which uses a random selection to give green cards to roughly 50,000 individuals from countries with historically low immigration rates. The legislation cleared the Senate but died in the House, which passed a stand-alone bill to end the program in 2012.
The visa lottery has been a target of immigration hawks for decades, but it is back in the spotlight after Tuesday night’s attack in New York City, where a vehicle was driven into a crowd of pedestrians, killing eight people. The suspect, Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, came to the U.S. in 2010 as part of the visa lottery program, according to the Trump administration.
“President Trump is right, the Diversity Visa Lottery Program is a problem and plagued by fraud. …I hope we can include this area of common ground as we work to fix our broken immigration system and strengthen our national security,” Sen. David Perdue (Ga.) said on Twitter, responding to Trump’s remarks.
Perdue and Tom Cotton (Ark.) introduced legislation, backed by Trump, that includes getting rid of the lottery. And though conservatives are seizing on the bill in the wake of the attack, it has limited support in the Senate Republican caucus.
Not every lawmaker was immediately on board with Trump’s demand. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), asked if the program needed to be revisited, suggested lawmakers should wait until they know more information about the attack.
“Well, we don’t know the details of this person. The green card program has a long, serious vetting program, it takes a year. So, before we can comment we have to see what happened with this individual person,” he said during a press conference.
Schumer and Trump traded fire Wednesday after the president called the program a “a Charles Schumer beauty.” Schumer fired back that “[I] guess it’s not too soon to politicize a tragedy.”
And top Democrats on the House Homeland Security and Judiciary Committees, as well as the Congressional Black Caucus, quickly knocked the president saying, he is “politicizing a national tragedy to further his anti-immigrant agenda.”
Senators also appear divided on whether or not to insert the lottery program into the negotiations over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, underscoring the likely fight ahead for the president and conservatives.
The administration announced it would end the Obama-era DACA program, which allows undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children to work and go to school without the fear of being deported.
Graham said he would support linking the two issues, and Perdue, separately, added that ending the lottery “must be part of any Congressional solution to fix our country’s immigration problems.”