President Donald J. Trump said he would like to terminate the diversity visa lottery, which distributes thousands of visas to applicants from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S.
In a video interview released by The Associated Press on Thursday, the leader of a Muslim advocacy group claims the president is wrong to seek the program’s elimination, even though the New York terrorist who ran over pedestrians this week came to America through that very program.
Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, who killed eight people on Tuesday, came to the United States in 2010 from Uzbekistan and benefited from the diversity visa lottery.
“I am, today, starting the process of terminating the diversity lottery program,” Trump said during a White House Cabinet meeting Wednesday. “We’re going to [as] quickly as possible get rid of chain migration and move to a merit-based system.”
According to The New York Times, “the lottery offers one of the fastest paths to legal permanent residency, often in less than two years. Unlike other immigrants who gain admission, winners of the lottery do not need to have a close relative living in the United States, or any special skill.”
The program awards up to 50,000 visas annually. Under the program, the lottery winners, plus their spouses and minor children, are able to move to the United States as legal permanent residents and apply for citizenship after five years.
Fatina Abdrabboh, a Detroit-area lawyer who heads up the American Muslim Advocacy League, argued that the program represents a small portion of the American immigration system and that there are few requirements for applicants.
“A potential winner of this lottery need not have exact requirements except that they want to come to America, and work very hard and do the right thing.”
“As unsettling as that may be for some now in this political climate,” she continues, “the reality is the government accountability office and all sorts of statistics have shown that this lottery program does not show any unique or particular threat in a higher way than any other part of our immigration program does.”
Abdrabboh said the “ending of this program” would symbolize failure “in terms of our standing with the whole world.”
“Diversity has always been what has allowed us as a country to stand as a beacon of hope,” she said, adding that “any call” from any avenue that would “extinguish that flame of diversity to the world is troubling.”