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Diversity Visa Lottery: Here are 6 things to know about the program Trump is blasting

Diversity Visa Lottery: Here are 6 things to know about the program Trump is blasting
[Photo: Epoxydude/Getty Images]

President Trump took to Twitter to claim that the man suspected of driving a truck into a bike lane in New York City, killing 8 people and injuring 11 others, had entered the U.S. through the “Diversity Visa Lottery Program.” He also accused New York Sen. Chuck Schumer with loosening the nation’s borders.

As with many of the president’s tweets, his claim was not entirely accurate. Trump was most likely referring to the Diversity Immigrant Visa lottery, which was established by the Immigration Act of 1990. That bill was passed with bipartisan support and signed into law by then-President George H.W. Bush. Since Trump put the blame for the lottery on Schumer, it’s important to note that Schumer did vote for the bill, when he was in the House of Representatives. The bill went into effect in 1995.

According to the New York Times, the suspect, who was identified as a 29-year-old Uzbek immigrant named Sayfullo Saipov, entered the United States in 2010 through Kennedy International Airport, before heading to Ohio to stay with a family. Per the Times, it wasn’t immediately clear under what circumstances Saipov came to the United States. But he had obtained a green card, giving him permanent legal resident status in the U.S., which would be possible through the Diversity Immigrant Visa lottery program.

Here are some statistics about the program:

  • The program allows the State Department to offer 50,000 visas annually to immigrants from countries with low immigration rates. People who are not from an eligible country can also qualify if their spouse was born in an eligible country.
  • According to the State Department, diversity visa lottery applicants must meet certain education and work experience requirements, like having obtained the equivalent of a high school education and at least “two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience to perform.”
  • The State Department determines who gets a visa through a randomized computer drawing, its website states.
  • Slightly more than 1 million people have entered the U.S. under the program, per an analysis of State Department statistics, including at least 24,000 from Uzbekistan since 2005.
  • In 2013, a bipartisan immigration reform bill was introduced to Congress that would have eliminated the diversity lottery, however the bill did not have enough support to pass.
  • The program still has some bipartisan support, including from Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., a former House Homeland Security Committee Chairman, who told Fox Business that he knew “a number of people in New York who come in under the lottery system, they’ve made outstanding contributions, they’ve become citizens” and differentiating between the lottery system and vetting.

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