On November 1, 2017 President Donald Trump called upon Congress to end the United States’ diversity green card lottery in response to a terror attack in New York City which left 8 people dead and 12 others seriously injured. The perpetrator, Sayfullo Saipov, 29, was identified as an immigrant from Uzbekistan who entered the United States in 2010 through the Diversity Visa Lottery Program. The Diversity Visa Lottery program is aimed at boosting immigration from countries which traditionally send fewer immigrants to the US. The program was created as a part of a bipartisan immigration effort in Congress in 1990 and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. The program grants 50,000 green cards per yearto countries with low immigration rates to the United States, mainly from Africa and Eastern Europe.
President Trump stated, “This program grants visas not on a basis of merit, but simply because applicants are randomly selected in an annual lottery and the people put in that lottery are not that country’s finest.”
Trump argued that instead of the lottery, the United States should institute a “merit-based system” in which only those with valuable trade skills would be permitted to immigrate to the US. In August, he endorsed a bill introduced by two Republican senators which would streamline the merit-based system and cut legal immigration in half by 2027. The Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act has been in the Senate Judiciary Committee since last February and similar legislation was introduced to the House Judiciary Committee in September.
However, the President has received backlash from experts in the immigration community. In an interview with Associated Press, Fatina Abdrabboh, Director of the American Muslim Advocacy League, stated, “The ending of this program certainly, I think, would be a symbolic defeat and loss in terms of our standing, really, with the whole world.”
Washington immigration attorney Kenneth Rinzler concurs with Trump in that the Diversity Visa Program has some deficiencies but argues that the problem is not the vetting of these individuals.
“It’s not legitimate to use the recent terrorist attack to knock this program because they (applicants) have to go through the same vetting as everybody else,” he says. Rinzler, like other professionals, believes that there are concerns about all green card vetting, therefore, it makes no sense to single out diversity visas.