WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump pushed again Thursday for canceling the green card lottery program under which the alleged New York City attacker entered the country in 2010, as well as for changing immigration rules that give priority to family members of those living in the United States.
Speaking in the White House after a meeting with Republican senators, Trump called the “diversity visa” lottery “a disaster for our country.”
“The people put in that lottery are not that country’s finest,” he said, adding that the program created “significant vulnerabilities” for national security.
Sayfullo Saipov gained entrance to the United States via the lottery, arriving in 2010 from his native Uzbekistan. He has been charged with driving a rented truck down a bicycle path in Manhattan on Tuesday, killing eight people in an attack inspired by the Islamic State group.
The lottery program, created during the George H.W. Bush administration, was meant to allow individuals to enter the United States from countries that had low levels of immigration. It had particular support from Irish-American and Italian-American groups.
Trump cast new restrictions on the arrival of family members as insuring “that we can have a system that is security based, not the way it is now.”
“We want to select people based on their ability to contribute to our country, not choose people randomly when you have no idea who they are or be based on extended family connections,” Trump said. “You have people bringing in 24, 25, 26 people when they come in.”
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Trump’s claims appeared exaggerated. While residents of other nations enter under a variety of immigration programs, they are vetted by U.S. authorities. Relatives are not automatically allowed into the country but must apply, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.