Trump Vows to Kill Visa Lottery Program Immediately

Fans of 'This American Life' may be familiar with it
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 1, 2017 12:59 PM CDT
Trump-Schumer Spat Puts Spotlight on Visa Lottery
Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer is a new target of President Trump.   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Tuesday's truck attack in New York City has touched off a debate on immigration laws, one that pits President Trump against Sen. Chuck Schumer in particular. Trump called on Congress Wednesday to end a program known as the Diversity Visa Lottery because he says it allowed the attacker into the country. "Sounds nice. It's not nice. It's not good," he said of the lottery, per ABC News. That follows his earlier criticism of the New York senator, with the president labeling the visa program a "Schumer beauty." And while it's true that Schumer helped get it passed while he was in the House, he also supported getting rid of it years later as a senator, a move blocked by House Republicans. Background on the feud and on the visa lottery itself:

  • Schumer responds: "I guess it's not too soon to politicize a tragedy," Schumer tweeted in response to Trump's criticism of him. The president faults Schumer for the Diversity Visa Lottery, which allows in people from countries that have low rates of immigration to the US. Suspect Sayfullo Saipov reportedly took advantage to gain entry from Uzbekistan in 2010, though the assertion remains unconfirmed. Schumer also accused Trump of proposing cuts to anti-terrorism funding.
  • More from Trump: "I am today starting the process of terminating the [diversity] lottery program," he told reporters at the White House, per CNN. "I am going to ask Congress to immediately initiate work to get rid of this program." He added that the US needs "much stronger" immigration laws because "what we have right now is a joke."
  • Schumer's role: Trump called the visa program a "Schumer beauty," but the New York Times reports that it's not quite that simple. Schumer did indeed play a role in getting the bill through the House more than 25 years ago, and it was later signed into law. But Schumer later supported ditching the program as part of the "Gang of Eight" immigration overhaul in 2013— a plan blocked by House Republicans.
  • Jeff Flake's tweets: "Actually, the Gang of 8, including @SenSchumer, did away with the Diversity Visa Program as part of broader reforms. I know, I was there," writes Flake, the outgoing GOP senator and Trump foe. "In fact, had the Senate Gang of 8 bill passed the House, it would have ended the Visa Lottery Program AND increased merit based visas," he adds.

  • Program's origins: CUNY Brooklyn College political scientist Anna Law has a series of tweets explaining that the visa lottery in question originally "was created by powerful and well placed Italian and Irish American Senators and Reps to help their co-ethnics immigrate." Why? These legislators were worried that "'old seed' immigrant groups were being shut out by newer groups from Asia and Latin America." Her larger paper on it is here.
  • This American Life: Despite those origins, the program now mostly serves immigrants from Africa and Eastern Europe, allowing in about 50,000 people a year. Fans of public radio's This American Life might be familiar with it via the story of Abdi, a Somali refugee living in Kenya who won his "golden ticket" through the program, notes Slate.
  • The basics: Applicants to the visa program must have a high school education or two years of experience in an occupation that requires formal training, reports the Washington Post. Its story has more on the program itself, as well as the growing attack on Schumer from the right over the issue.
  • Uzbek connection: If Saipov did indeed use the program, he's far from alone. State Department figures show that 24,194 Uzbeks have had a visa issued or adjusted under the system between September 2005 and September 2014, per the Daily News of New York.
(More New York City terror attack stories.)

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