What is the Diversity Visa, and Why Trump Blames It for the NYC Attack?

He's also blaming Chuck Schumer.

Getty Images / Alex Wong

By Wednesday morning, President Trump had managed to place the blame for Tuesday’s truck attack in Manhattan squarely on the shoulders of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

In a tweet, Trump called out Schumer by name as being responsible for a visa program known as the Diversity Visa Lottery; the program by which Monday’s alleged attacker Sayfullo Saipov reportedly entered the U.S. That information, which was published in an ABC7 report Tuesday, is still unconfirmed, according to several reports.

There’s more that doesn’t check out in Trump’s tweet. Although Schumer was part of the diversity visa legislation in the early 90s, he actually attempted to do away with the program back in 2013, when a group of senators called the Gang of Eight came up with a bipartisan proposal to reform American immigration laws. Although the bill passed in the Senate, it was shot down in the House.

What is the diversity visa lottery program?

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program allows for up to 50,000 new immigrants annually from countries with lower immigration rates to the U.S. The visa was established by Congress as part of the Immigration Act of 1990.

The selections are random, so it works as a lottery and not a merit-based process, like the kind of visas Trump has long championed. However, a successful applicant must have a high school education or its equivalent, two years of qualifying work experience in a profession listed under U.S. guidelines, and no criminal record. No single country can receive more than seven percent of the total diversity visas issued in a given year.

Diversity visa holders come from all over the world — including Uzbekistan, Sayfullo Saipov’s country of origin — but the countries that are eligible for the diversity visa can change depending on their immigration rates. For example, for the 2019 diversity visa, Canada and Mexico are not eligible, but Australia, Spain and Sweden are.

What is merit-based immigration?

Since assuming office, Trump has held a strong stance on immigration reform. Back in August, he backed a bill to slash the diversity visa. The bill would also transform work visas into point systems that favor highly-skilled, already affluent and English-fluent applicants.

Trump’s travel ban — which attempted to limit the ability of nationals from several foreign countries, a predominate number being Muslim-majority, to travel or immigrate to the U.S. — all qualify for the diversity visa.

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