In the wake of the Halloween terror attack in New York City, the President of the United States has publicly expressed that he would like to terminate the Diversity Visa Lottery Program. His rationale is that Sayfullo Saipov, the prime suspect in the attack, entered the country through a visa granted by the program. As usual, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to make the aforementioned announcement; he did so on the morning after eight people, most of them tourists from Latin America, were killed in the attack. He went on to blame New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer for the the enactment of the program, which was actually approved with substantial support from the Republican Party. Senator Schumer has even backed efforts to amend or even rescind the visa lottery in recent years, but Trump is possibly not aware of this fact.
Saipov is an immigrant from Uzbekistan; he arrived in 2010 and initially settled in Ohio after his visa lottery application was drawn and approved by officials from US Citizenship and Immigration Services. The suspect later moved to Florida and later to the northeast, where he may have become radicalized by propaganda distributed by the ISIS terrorist organization. The visa lottery program was enacted as a modification of the Immigration Act of 1965; it was originally intended to help Americans with Irish and Italian roots connect with relatives and friends from their countries of ancestry. In the beginning, Italian and Irish people were very interested in the program, but the economic strengthening of the European Union caused this initial interest to subside. In the mid-1990s, immigration officials expanded the diversity factor of the program to include applicants from many other nations. During the two terms served by President Barack Obama, applicants from African nations were the most interested in “winning” the visa lottery.
Depending on caps set by immigration officials, up to 50,000 visas are awarded through the lottery each year, which are randomly drawn from a pile of applications estimated to be in the millions. Although this program does not require applicants to have kinship in the US or possess specialized skills, those factors may come into play during the final visa approval after the drawing. As can be expected, applicants with questionable backgrounds are not awarded visas. In the past, Trump has floated the idea of merit-based immigration in lieu of lotteries and even family-based visa programs. An example of merit-based visas can be found within the Trump business organization, which once operated a modeling agency that questionably obtained visas for beautiful women, mostly from Eastern Europe, to work in the US.
Trump can tweet all he wants about the program, but standing legislation is difficult to erase with social media updates. Eliminating the program will have to be done through legislative means. As can be imagined, visa lottery season causes commotion across oppressed and impoverished regions of the world, and this could be something that bothers the US President. In Trump’s ideal world, it seems the only immigrants who merit entry to the US are those who are wealthy, incredibly skilled or extremely attractive.