Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, originally from Uzbekistan, entered the United States after winning the “Diversity Visa Lottery,” a genuine U.S. government program which awards green cards randomly. Applicants from around the world apply each year to the system, which awards around 50,000 green cards in a lottery to lucky winners.
Saipov, the terrorist who killed eight, was one such winner.
The program has awarded around one million green cards since it was introduced in 1990. Now Trump wants to end it and replace it with a merit-based system which uses points. “We are fighting hard for Merit Based immigration, no more Democrat Lottery Systems. We must get MUCH tougher (and smarter),” the President tweeted.
Saipov came into America using the system in 2010. He moved to Tampa, Florida and then later to New Jersey. But he didn’t come alone.
“This man that came in – or whatever you want to call him – brought in, with him, other people,” President Trump said in a discussion about immigration policy. “And he was a point, he was the point of contact – the primary point of contact for, and this is preliminarily – 23 people that came in, or potentially came in with him. And that’s not acceptable.”
Trump was referring to the process known as “chain migration, which the president has previously spoken out against. Under chain migration, an immigrant to the U.S. can sponsor relatives in their home country to immigrate to the U.S. Once in the U.S., those relatives can sponsor other relatives.
Two of those men who immigrated on Saipov’s “chain” were recorded on the government’s Counterterrorism and Criminal Exploitation Unit’s list after entering the U.S. from “threat countries,” overstaying their tourist visas and vanishing, a federal official told ABC News. Saipov was interviewed by federal agents about their cases in 2015.
“A lottery is a crazy way to run an immigration system,” said Steve Yale-Loehr, a professor of immigration law at Cornell Law School, told The New York Times. “No other country selects immigrants based on a lottery.”