In the days following the terror attack that killed eight people in New York City on Tuesday, President Donald Trump has capitalized on the opportunity to push his anti-immigration agenda.
The suspect in the attack is Sayfullo Saipov, a 29-year-old immigrant from Uzbekistan. Saipov entered the United States in 2010 on a visa he obtained through a lottery program.
His reaction to the attack differed sharply from his response to the shooting that shook Las Vegas just one month ago. That attack left 58 people dead and over 500 injured.
Stephen Paddock, the suspect in the Vegas shooting, was a 64-year-old white man. Paddock used an arsenal of at least 23 guns; authorities recovered at least a total of 47 believed to all belong to Paddock.
Trump called Paddock “a very very sick individual” and “a demented man, [with] a lot of problems.”
His tone on Twitter just after the attack in Vegas was very different from his voice after the incident in New York.
Trump made no mention of strengthening gun laws. In fact, in a White House talking points memo released after the shooting, the Trump administration explained why it would not in fact seek to tighten gun safety rules.
According to the memo, obtained by the Washington Examiner:
“Let’s gather the facts before we make sweeping policy arguments for curtailing the Second Amendment. The investigation is still in its earliest stages.”
“And when it comes to gun control, let’s be clear: new laws won’t stop a mad man committed to harming innocent people,” the memo continues. “They will curtail the freedoms of law abiding citizens.”
“Again, we welcome this debate, but in the wake of Sunday night’s tragedy, we shouldn’t rush toward compromising our freedoms before we have all the facts.”
There was no time taken to “gather the facts” after Tuesday’s attack; in fact, Trump almost immediately called for “sweeping policy arguments.”
His first tweet in response to the attack politicized the incident immediately.
Later, just hours after the attack, Trump called for an end to the diversity visa lottery program that allowed Saipov to enter the country and called for his refrain of extreme vetting of immigrants. He also seized on the opportunity to attack Democrats, particularly New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who he seemed to credit for the program in its entirety.
The Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) Program as it is known today came to be in 1990 as part of the Immigration Act of 1990. It allows up to 50,000 immigrants to obtain visas to enter the United States each year from countries that otherwise do not send a large number of people here. Applicants must have a high school education or its equivalent or two years of relevant work experience. Applying is free.
Natives from “high admission” countries cannot apply for the program. Countries are considered “high admission” if they have sent 50,000 or more persons to the U.S. through family- and work-related visa programs during the previous five years.
In 2016, 46,718 immigrants entered the country through the DV Program. Of the continents, the majority came from Africa; the country with the highest number was Nepal, which sent over 3,000 people (Asia only sent a total of 8,898 people).
The Immigration Act of 1990 was sponsored by Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy. One Republican — Sen. Alfonse D’Amato of New York — cosponsored it.
Rep. Bruce Morrison (D-Conn.) introduced it in the House, where Schumer served as a cosponsor along with 30 other representatives — seven of whom were Republicans. Republicans largely voted against it, 45-127. But among those who voted for it were Newt Gingrich, who went on to serve as a Republican Speaker of the House and is a well-known Trump ally.
In debunking Trump’s assertion that the program is a “Chuck Schumer beauty,” Politifact reported:
“Republicans who supported the measure included Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who was then a first-termer, and current Republican Sens. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Orrin Hatch of Utah, John McCain of Arizona, and Richard Shelby of Alabama (who was then a Democrat).
“In addition, Trump’s director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, voted for the conference report.”
The conference report allowed the same exact bill to be voted on in the House and Senate.
“The House approved the conference report the following day, by a 264-118 margin,” Politifact reported. “This time, a majority of House Republicans voted for the measure, 93-64. The Republican yes votes included Rohrabacher and Ros-Lehtinen, along with two other GOP lawmakers still serving, Joe Barton of Texas and Fred Upton of Michigan.”
For his part, Schumer was among a bipartisan group that in 2013 supported a bill that would have eliminated the DV Program entirely. The bill passed in the Senate but died in the House.
A 2007 report from the Government Accountability Office stated, “We found no documented evidence of DV immigrants from state sponsors of terrorism committing any terrorist acts. However, as we have previously reported, the Department of Homeland Security, terrorism experts, and federal law enforcement officials familiar with immigration fraud believe that some individuals, including terrorists and criminals, could use fraudulent means to enter or remain in the United States.”
Citing a high risk of fraud within the program, the report recommended strengthening the DV Program and developing “proposals for legislative changes, if deemed necessary.”