The Halloween terrorist attack in New York City was horrifying for many reasons. Not the least of which was the fact that this was yet another jihadist attack committed by yet another alien who had been admitted into this country through legal immigration channels. It illustrated once again why extreme vetting is needed, especially when aliens come to the United States from dangerous regions of the world where radical Islamism is rampant. In this case, the terrorist — Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov — came from Uzbekistan, a country where terrorism is widespread.
But perhaps the most outrageous aspect of this particular terrorist attack is that there was no national interest whatsoever in admitting this alien to the United States. Saipov came into the United States through the Diversity Visa Lottery.
The Diversity Visa Lottery legislation was originally sponsored by the late U.S. Senator Teddy Kennedy. That’s your first clue that it was a bad idea. Created in 1986, the Diversity Visa Lottery provides for the admission into the United States of up to 50,000 randomly-selected aliens every year, under the rationale of increasing the diversity of immigrants in the United States. Each year, over 14 million aliens enter the lottery hoping to win.
But unlike other immigrants who come to the United States, Diversity Visa Lottery winners do not serve the national interests of either providing a useful skill that is needed in our economy or reuniting U.S. citizens with their family members. Indeed, the admission of Diversity Visa Lottery aliens does not serve any national interest at all. So the United States gains nothing when it gives away 50,000 of the most valued immigration documents on the planet — green cards allowing permanent residence in the United States.
It has long been obvious that there is no benefit to admitting randomly-selected aliens to compete for jobs with U.S. workers. But this latest terrorist attack illustrates vividly that there is a cost. With every alien admitted, there is a risk — usually a very small one — that the alien is a terrorist or comes from a region where the culture is conducive to Islamic jihad.
In other words, the Diversity Visa Lottery is not only a lottery in which the alien takes a chance — a chance that he will gain entry into the United States. It is also a lottery in which the United States takes a chance — a chance that we are admitting a terrorist or potential terrorist.
With other categories of aliens, there is at least some national benefit that is gained when this risk is assumed. But with Diversity Visa Lottery recipients, the United States gains nothing when it assumes this risk. It’s a bad deal for the United States.
It’s time to end the Diversity Visa Lottery. There are multiple bills pending in Congress that would terminate the lottery. Congress should end it now. Not as part of some grand immigration bargain, but as a single positive step toward more rational immigration policies.
Kris W. Kobach is the elected Secretary of State of Kansas. An expert in immigration law and policy, he coauthored the Arizona SB-1070 immigration law and represented in federal court the ten ICE agents who sued to stop Obama’s 2012 executive amnesty. In 2017 President Trump named him Vice Chairman of the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity. His website is kriskobach.com.