President Donald Trump joined the chorus of conservative pundits who are blaming the terror attack in New York City Tuesday on a State Department lottery immigration program that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) helped write in 1990.
ABC7 News reported Monday evening that the alleged attacker Sayfullo Saipov came to the U.S. legally from Uzbekistan under a 20-year-old program called the Diversity Visa Lottery, a report that has not yet been confirmed, The Washington Post reported.
In 1990, Schumer championed the legislation, which became part of a larger immigration package that passed Congress with bipartisan support and was signed into law by former Republican President George H.W. Bush, according to the Post.
Trump latched onto the unverified reports of the alleged attacker’s immigration status, claiming on Twitter that Saipov entered the U.S. through the Diversity Visa Lottery Program, “a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based.” Trump also proclaimed, “We will stop this craziness!”
The President’s tweets were probably spurred on by “Fox and Friends,” his favorite show, because Trump tagged the show in his tweets and started tweeting just minutes after his former aide Sebastian Gorka appeared on “Fox and Friends” to blame Schumer for the attack.
Trump has been an advocate for merit-based immigration system for months. In August, he threw his weight behind the RAISE Act, a bill sponsored by Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) that would favor green card applicants who demonstrate skills, education and language ability over relations to people already here. It also sought to cut legal immigration in half over the next decade.
About an hour after Trump tweeted blaming Schumer for the attack, the Senate minority leader responded with a tweet and a lukewarm statement that asked Trump to stop “politicizing and dividing America.”
“I have always believed and continue to believe that immigration is good for America. President Trump, instead of politicizing and dividing America, which he always seems to do at times of national tragedy, should be focusing on the real solution — anti-terrorism funding — which he proposed cutting in his most recent budget. I’m calling on the President to immediately rescind his proposed cuts to this vital anti-terrorism funding,” Schumer said.
Under the Diversity Lottery Visa program, the State Department gives 50,000 visas a year, primarily to immigrants from parts of the globe that have low admission rates. Most go to people from African nations, the Washington Post reported.
The program came into effect under the Bill Clinton administration and has been debated for the past decade. In 2007, the U.S. Government Accountability Office determined the program was vulnerable to fraud, but former President George W. Bush’s State Department rejected that characterization.
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), a vocal opponent of the President, responded to Trump’s tweets Wednesday morning, saying the Gang of 8 — a bipartisan group of Senators who attempted, but weren’t able to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2013 — scrubbed the program as part of its broader reforms bill. Schumer was part of that group.
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