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Following Tuesday’s deadly terrorist attack in Manhattan, President Donald Trump on Wednesday called for an end to the immigration lottery program, which he blamed for allowing the terror suspect into the country.
The suspect, Sayfullo Saipov, is a 29-year-old Uzbek national who entered the United States on a green card in 2010. He is accused of killing eight people and injuring several others after driving a Home Depot rental truck down a bike path in lower Manhattan. Saipov reportedly told investigators that he was acting on behalf of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS.
The immigration lottery program, known formally as the Diversity Visa Lottery, awards about 50,000 visas annually to green card applicants from countries that are typically underrepresented in the United States. The bill passed in 1990 and went into effect in 1995.
The U.S. typically issues around 1 million green cards per year. In 2016, 45,664 diversity visas were issued.
On Wednesday, in a Cabinet meeting, Trump asked Congress to end the program. “I am today starting the process of terminating the diversity lottery program,” Trump said.
The terrorist came into our country through what is called the "Diversity Visa Lottery Program," a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 1, 2017
The president on Wednesday criticized Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who co-sponsored the bill in the 1990s and is credited with developing and sponsoring a different bill that was turned into law. Schumer also led an effort to pass legislation that would have ended the program.
Schumer responded by tweeting that immigration is good for America and saying Trump is politicizing and dividing America.
I guess it's not too soon to politicize a tragedy.— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) November 1, 2017
Always believed & cont. to believe that immigration is good for America. Pres Trump, instead of politicizing & dividing America, 1/3— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) November 1, 2017
which he always seems to do at times of natl tragedy, should focus on anti-terrorism funding which he proposed cutting in his budget. 2/3— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) November 1, 2017
Schumer even compared Trump’s response to the attack to former President George W. Bush’s response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “President Trump, where is your leadership?” Schumer tweeted. “The contrast between President Bush’s actions after 9-11 and President Trump’s this [morning] couldn’t be starker.”
President Bush, in a moment of national tragedy, understood the meaning of his high office & sought to bring our country together.— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) November 1, 2017
President Trump, where is your leadership? The contrast btwn Pres Bush’s actions after 9-11 & Pres Trump’s this am couldn't be starker.— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) November 1, 2017
Schumer also said Trump should focus on anti-terrorism funding and rescind his proposed budget cuts.
We are fighting hard for Merit Based immigration, no more Democrat Lottery Systems. We must get MUCH tougher (and smarter). @foxandfriends— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 1, 2017
"Senator Chuck Schumer helping to import Europes problems" said Col.Tony Shaffer. We will stop this craziness! @foxandfriends— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 1, 2017
Trump tweeted about stopping the craziness and fighting for a merit-based immigration system, quoting a guest on Fox & Friends.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters at Wednesday afternoon’s press briefing that Trump did not blame Schumer for the attack and denied that he politicized the tragedy.
In August, Trump has endorsed a bill introduced by two Republican senators that would eliminate the diversity lottery and create a merit-based immigration system that would favor immigrants’ job skills over their kin ties to the U.S. The bill was a modified version of legislation introduced in February of this year. It aims to reduce annual green card awards from 1 million to around 500,000.
In addition to wanting to do away with the lottery program, Trump called the U.S. federal justice system a joke and said it needs to be better.
Trump lashes out at US federal justice system as "joke" and "laughing stock." pic.twitter.com/Aa5vJumWvd— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) November 1, 2017
“We also have to come up with punishment that’s far quicker and far greater than the punishment that these animals are getting right now,” Trump said. “What we have right now is a joke and laughing stock, and no wonder so much of this stuff takes place—and I think I can speak for plenty of other countries too, who are in the same situation.”
In the Cabinet meeting, Trump also made comments about sending Saipov to the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The White House announced on Wednesday afternoon that it would treat the suspect as an “enemy combatant,” which would give Trump the authority to detain him without trial and without other rights, including access to an attorney.
Several Republican senators, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, supported the enemy combatant designation.
“From Orlando to San Bernardino and Boston to Manhattan, we must not consider these attacks on our homeland in isolation, but rather recognize them for what they are: acts of war,” McCain said in a statement. “As such, the New York terror suspect should be held and interrogated — thoroughly, responsibly, and humanely—as an enemy combatant consistent with the Law of Armed Conflict.”
Brianna Stone is a contributing reporter to the Daily Dot. Her work has been published by the Dallas Morning News, Austin American-Statesman, and USA Today.