A recent attack that left eight people dead and a dozen injured in Manhattan has raised concerns about the Diversity Visa Immigrant Program, otherwise known as the “visa lottery,” and has President Donald Trump calling for its elimination.
Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, an Uzbek national who entered the US through the program, rented a pickup truck earlier this month and drove down a busy bicycle path in the Manhattan area. Authorities found a note in the truck claiming the attack was made in the name of ISIS and have since declared the incident as an act of terror. Although the incident is the first act of terror committed by a visa lottery winner since 2002, Trump immediately used the incident as an excuse to terminate the Diversity Visa Immigrant Program, stating that he was working with Congress to get rid of the program.
I am calling on Congress to TERMINATE the diversity visa lottery program that presents significant vulnerabilities to our national security. pic.twitter.com/tW4wOlI4vu
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 2, 2017
After thoroughly researching the program, the board disagrees with the president and doesn’t believe the program should be cut. The Diversity Visa Immigrant Program was established in 1990 as a way to expand diversity in America, specifically countries that have little to no migration to the states, such as Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Approximately 19 million people apply each year, and only 50,000 are chosen.
Although the board agrees that there is room to reform the visa lottery, we don’t think that Trump’s passionate, spur-of-the-moment Twitter tantrums should have any actual influence over his executive decisions, especially regarding a program that is designed to boost immigration and give others the chance to experience what America has to offer.
There are many arguments that favor Trump’s intent to eliminate the program. A major concern from the program opposition insists that the Diversity Visa Immigrant Program invites potential terrorists to the US by targeting many Middle Eastern countries.
Including Saipov, there have been all of three documented terrorists who entered the US through the program, and both happened 15 years ago in 2002. The “long” list of lottery terrorists includes Hesham Mohamed Ali Hedayet, who shot up an El-Al ticket counter in 2002, killing two, and Imran Mandhai, who planned to bomb power stations in Florida the same year. Out of 50,000 immigrants chosen per year to enter the US through the program, the odds don’t seem to favor the argument that the program produces a mass gathering of terrorists.
Domestic terrorism poses a larger immediate threat to the American people than radical Muslim extremists. In fact, according to a study by New America, a non-partisan organization in Washington, DC, between 2001 and 2015 more Americans were killed by homegrown right-wing extremists than by Islamist terrorists. Stephan Paddock and Devin Kelley are two of the most recent examples of domestic terrorism in the United States, and both were American citizens. Trying to limit or bar Muslims and other immigrants from America because they might turn out to be a terrorist is a terrible solution born out of and driven by fear.
Another argument claims that the program is incredibly difficult to run and takes a lot of time from State Department employees and resources to properly vet those who are accepted. The board disagrees and feels that there should absolutely be a long process to make sure all immigrants are properly vetted after each person is admitted. The vetting process is the same for any immigrant that wins the lottery as it is for any other person migrating to America. They fill out the same paperwork, have the same background checks, and do exactly the same thing as every other immigrant before they are approved. They don’t just get handed a green card.
The argument that the visa lottery is teeming with fraud is a bit more understandable than the rest of the above. Although our own country is fraught with fake documents and widespread fraud, it has been shown that there are most definitely issues with fraudulent activity regarding the diversity visa program.
According to Politifact, “The State Department did not provide data on how widespread fraud is within the program, but fraud issues have been documented for many years. Some of the fraud involves organized groups entering individuals into the lottery without their consent and then extracting money from them in exchange for a confirmation number needed for the visa application process. Technology helps prevent the type of fraud where a person would take the place of the original applicant.”
However, it appears that most of the activity affects the people applying (i.e. holding their approval documents ransom or demanding money for their paperwork, etc.) and although some of the issues involve blackmailing people in to fake marriages to slip somebody else in to the US, without actual numbers to back these claims up and give a more solid, statistical idea of the issues and how to solve them, it shouldn’t impact the program or be a reason to terminate it altogether. They should be working on a solution to stop the fraudulent activity instead of using it as an excuse to dismantle the program.
There is also an issue of immigrants admitted through the program who live on welfare because of lack of skills necessary to get a good job. Many immigrants that enter the US through the program end up on welfare and/or without a job to support themselves, which doesn’t provide any productive contributions to the American economy or workforce.
According to the Center for Immigration Studies, in 2012, 63 percent of households headed by an immigrant with only a high school education accessed one or more of the nation’s major welfare programs. Although there are already plenty of Americans that also take advantage of assistance, this is an understandably concerning number, and highlights the issue of incoming immigrants not having the education or skills necessary to succeed in America.
Many who oppose the program, including Trump, have suggested overhauling the lottery to admit more people who have job offers or possess high-level work skills through a merit-based system. Although it might sound like a better solution than eliminating the program altogether, it goes against the American idea that the US is the “land of opportunity.” Limiting immigration to people who have a better education, more money or are considered more desirable for our country is un-American, and basically lowers any chance of less privileged immigrants gaining entry to the US, especially to those who are in the most need of said opportunity. Millions of American citizens would never have been able to come here from places like Germany, Italy and Poland had they not been given the chance to contribute to American society.
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). @foxandfriends
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 1, 2017
To propose a solution, the board suggests finding a way to strengthen programs to help those admitted to find jobs to help stimulate the economy and avoid ending up on welfare. Maybe requiring more education (after admittance) to ensure that the immigrants chosen are able to fully take advantage of the opportunities in our country while still making a positive impact on the American economy.
This could help boost enrollment rates in high education institutions and technical schools, give the immigrants that arrive a better/higher skillset to contribute to the American workforce, and help keep them off welfare and assistance programs. Maybe throw in a couple of programs or advisors to help guide our new residents in their first few years in America to help them succeed, instead of throwing them a green card and hoping for the best. With no guidance on how to successfully migrate in to American culture and society, how can we expect them to succeed?