Columns

Trump Slams Schumer for Diversity Lottery That Admitted N.Y. Terror Suspect

Chuck Schumer

WASHINGTON — President Trump lashed out at Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) for the diversity lottery through which the Manhattan terrorist immigrated to the United States, causing one of Trump’s GOP Senate foes to jump in and correct the record.

Uber driver Sayfullo Saipov, 29, from Tampa, Fla., with addresses in New Jersey, was identified as the driver of the rented Home Depot flatbed truck that plowed into cyclists and pedestrians on the West Side Highway bicycle path Tuesday afternoon, killing eight. He immigrated to the United States from Uzbekistan in 2010, and has a wife and three children in Paterson, N.J.

Saipov, who had worked as a trucker, had a previous traffic offense in Missouri and didn’t show in court, forfeiting $200 bond. Uber said he passed the background check to be a driver.

The diversity lottery awards 55,000 green cards a year to immigrants from countries underrepresented in immigration applications; most go to African and Eastern European nations. Applicants are vetted for two years before receiving a visa and must have no criminal record and possess equivalent education to a high school diploma. When Saipov applied in 2008, he was one of 153,661 Uzbek applicants for a diversity visa; 3,356 made it through the process and got a green card.

The RAISE Act, introduced two months ago by Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) and unveiled at the White House with Trump’s backing, would reduce the current number of green cards and kill the diversity lottery.

Trump tweeted this morning, “The terrorist came into our country through what is called the ‘Diversity Visa Lottery Program,’ a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based.”

“We are fighting hard for Merit Based immigration, no more Democrat Lottery Systems. We must get MUCH tougher (and smarter).”

Schumer was part of the Gang of Eight immigration reform group in 2013 that proposed doing away with the Bush-era diversity lottery.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) tweeted in response to Trump: “Actually, the Gang of 8, including @SenSchumer, did away with the Diversity Visa Program as part of broader reforms. I know, I was there.”

“In fact, had the Senate Gang of 8 bill passed the House, it would have ended the Visa Lottery Program AND increased merit based visas,” Flake added.

Schumer added on Twitter, “I guess it’s not too soon to politicize a tragedy.”

“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,” the New York senator said in a statement. “I’m calling on the president to immediately rescind his proposed cuts to this vital anti-terrorism funding.”

On the Senate floor this morning, Schumer praised Officer Ryan Nash, who shot Saipov after he got out of the truck.

“After Sept. 11, one of the first things that President Bush did was invite Senator Clinton and me to the White House, where he pledged to do whatever was in his power to help our city. President Bush, in a moment of national tragedy, understood the meaning of his high office and sought to bring our country together,” Schumer said. “President Trump, where is your leadership? The contrast between President Bush’s actions after 9-11 and President Trump’s actions this morning could not be starker. Again, President Trump, where is your leadership?”

“…I have always believed that immigration is good for America, I believe it today. President Trump, instead of politicizing and dividing America, which he always seems to do at times of national tragedy, should be bringing us together and focusing on the real solution – anti-terrorism funding – which he proposed to cut in his most recent budget. I’m calling on President Trump to rescind his proposed cuts to this vital anti-terrorism funding immediately.”

Trump’s budget request cut $582.8 million from counterterrorism programs administered by the Department of Homeland Security, $35.9 million from the Complex Coordinated Terrorist Attacks program (to enhance community preparedness for multi-pronged attacks such as the coordinated strikes across Paris in November 2015) and $10 million from the Countering Violent Extremism program.

The Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI), which specifically addresses threats to high-density areas like NYC, was recommended for a 25 percent reduction, from $605 million to $448 million.