The Federal Visa Lottery Program awards visas to individuals in countries with traditionally low immigration rates. Suspected New York City terrorist Sayfullo Saipov received his visa in 2007 while living in Uzbekistan. Recently, new details about the controversial program are emerging that confirm the lottery is a threat to national security.
In addition, according to data released by the State Department, almost 30k visas have been issued to people living in dangerous countries. Since 2007, there have been 20,739 recipients from Iran, 7,232 from Sudan, and 812 from Syria. All three, are well-known sponsors of terrorist activities.
A House Judiciary report from 2004 defines the visa lottery as a weakness in national security protocols. “Some experts have argued that the program is susceptible to fraud and manipulation,” said the report. “In addition, reviewers have asserted that identity fraud, in the process, is ‘endemic.’”
A Deadly Gamble
The DV program awards visas to 50k recipients every year. Winners are generated through a random, computer-generated drawing and handed out on a first-come-first-serve basis. Another problem with the program, critics argue, is that winners are also able to sponsor other family members once in the U.S.
President Trump revealed in November that Saipov sponsored more nearly two dozen people. “This man that came in – or whatever you want to call him – brought in, with him, other people,” the president said. “And he was the primary point of contact for, and this is preliminarily, 23 people that came in or potentially came in with him.”
As a result, President Trump, along with other Congress members, have called for an end to the program. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham suggested that halting the visa lottery should be part of any new immigration enforcement plans. “Count me in for wanting to eliminate the lottery system,” Mr. Graham said.
Senator John Cornyn of Texas supports instituting Trump’s merit-based immigration strategy. “We ought to be more focused and more merit-oriented when it comes to our immigration program,” said Cornyn. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin says most Democrats would vote to end the visa lottery.