In the wake of the New York terrorist attack, Americans are left questioning how safe they really are in “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” In a knee-jerk attempt to answer this question, Donald Trump has called for the elimination of the Diversity Visa Immigrant Program. But is elimination of the Diversity Visa Immigrant Program really the answer to solving terrorism and other issues surrounding attacks on the United States? Not unless we plan on turning “the great American melting pot” into a boring, single-cheese fondue.
It is in no way legitimate to use the recent New York terrorist attack to knock the Diversity Visa Immigrant Program. The system enhances the nation’s diversity and recipients are subjected to the same stringent vetting as all other immigrant visa programs. The program requires extensive background checks for immigrant applicants, so as to prevent terrorists from entering America.
Meanwhile, in the United States, there are far more American-born, white men committing terrorizing crimes and mass shootings. From the Aurora movie theater shooting to the Las Vegas shooting, the terrorists have all been white men. These are issues that demand our attention, as well as the attention of Congress, but do not receive it. Trump calling to end the Diversity Visa Immigrant Program and pushing immigration and border control is simply a Band-Aid over real issues that need resolution.
Consider a look at the data on domestic terrorism and who’s behind it. Since Trump took office, more Americans have been killed in attacks by white American men than by terrorists or foreigners. This issue demands attention on a large scale. Instead, Trump is evoking fear and feigning resolution by calling for complete eradication of a system that diversifies and therefore strengthens the United States. Ending this program would be no means to an end for terrorist acts. Sayfullo Saipov was one of very few immigrants who migrate to America through the Diversity Visa Immigrant Program and commit an act of terrorism. Amaha Kassa, founder and executive director of African Communities Together, stated to Al Jazeera, “we’re now reacting to one out of those over a million people who were admitted through this program. Our view is that we should be making policy based on the million, not based on the one.”
Trump argues that there is need for merit-based immigration rather that the Diversity Visa Immigrant Program. While a merit-based program may be a substantial idea in theory, it is fundamentally against the United States’ ideals to limit applicants in such a way. The Conversation’s Ethan Lewis addresses this issue, saying “immigration that emphasizes diversity, rather than merely merit, tends to attract more people who specialize in occupations uncommon among U.S.-born workers.” And, Andy J. Semotiuk of Forbes writes that according to economists Giovanni Peri and Chad Sparber, “this tendency toward job specialization is a key reason the large volume of low-skill immigration does not drive down incomes of Americans.” This raw diversity is the key source of economic benefit from immigration. Immigration Advocacy Services’ Antonio Meloni told Al Jazeera that the inclusion of a merit-based system would not be a detriment, but also would be no replacement for the diversification provided by the lottery program and the raw diversity it offers.
Fraud is a well-known issue that is present within such systems like the Diversity Visa Immigration Program. However, it is not known how broad the fraud is, and details on the fraud are unclear. A solution to this fraud, rather than eradicating the program, would be to implement stronger fraud-detection measures, not scapegoat a program that captures America’s ideals.
Rather than eradicate the program, there can be several solutions. Chuck Schumer called out President Trump and stated, “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.” Doesn’t it seem counterproductive and hypocritical to make cuts to a program that works hand-in-hand with limiting terrorist acts in the United States?
The Diversity Visa Immigrant Program has given thousands of people a chance at the American Dream. Writer Christie Moffat, an immigrant by way of the Diversity Visa Immigrant Program, puts it eloquently in saying, “I am not an American. But thanks to the diversity visa, one day, I could be.”
This editorial was written by MacKenzi Enright based on the stance of a Media Milwaukee editorial board.