NEW YORK, Nov 1 (APP)::US President Donald Trump Wednesday unleashed a series of tweets blaming the Electronic Diversity Visa Lottery programme for Tuesday’s deadly attack that struck lower Manhattan, and demanding immigration reforms based on merit.
Trump said the suspect, 29-year-old Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, used the visa lottery programme to legally emigrate from Uzbekistan in 2010. Officials have yet to confirm whether that is the case.
“The terrorist came into our country through what is called the ‘Diversity Visa Lottery Programme,’ a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based,” Trump tweeted, referring the Senate minority leader, who is a Democrat.
Schumer took to the Senate floor Wednesday to demand President Trump knock off the tweets politicizing previous night’s terror attack, and instead “do something real” like rescind his proposed cuts to anti-terrorism funding.
The lottery, which provides legal pathways for people from countries with historically low immigration rates to the US, has been a target for years for restrictions, making it an ideal target for Trump. Established in 1990, the lottery provides only 50,000 visas annually, and applicants are required to have completed at least a high school education or at least two years of work experience. Visas are distributed among nationals from six different regions.
Trump is backing a bill that would end the diversity visa lottery programme and cut other forms of family-based routes to come to the country legally, with the explicit goal of halving legal immigration.
“We are fighting hard for Merit Based immigration, no more Democrat Lottery Systems. We must get MUCH tougher (and smarter) @foxandfriends,” Trump tweeted, citing the programme whose hosts were discussing the visa lottery.
Schumer also asked on the Senate floor, “President Trump, where is your leadership?”
The New York lawmaker drew a comparison between Trump’s conduct after Tuesday’s attack and the way former President George W. Bush responded to 9/11.
Bush “understood the meaning of his high office” in the midst of a national tragedy, Schumer said. “The contrast between President Bush’s actions after 9/11 and President Trump’s actions this morning couldn’t be starker.”
The Trump-Schumer back and forth came less than 24 hours after eight people were killed and more than a dozen injured when a motorist in a rented pickup truck deliberately drove down a bike path in lower Manhattan and mowed down several people before crashing into a school bus in what officials said was a terror attack.
Police found a note inside the truck indicating the suspect claimed to have carried out the attack to show his support for ISIS.
According to The New York Times, he had obtained a green card, giving him permanent legal resident status in the U.S.
Meanwhile, Democrats and Republicans alike hit back against Trump.
Congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on “Morning Joe” that “it was kind of absurd (for Trump)…to be using it as a fulcrum forâ€¦this kind of a debate.”
“I don’t think this is the time to get political,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said “Morning Joe.” “There is no doubt we have to be smarter and have more intelligence but there is also no doubt that this is not the time to play politics, to foment hate – this is not the time to divide.”
Republican Senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, who have both become vocal Trump critics since announcing they would not run for reelection next year, also took on the president.
“I don’t think that brings out the best in our country,” Corker told NBC News, while Flake called Trump’s response “premature.”
“He should express solidarity with those trying to fix this (visa) programme,” Flake said.
Another Republican explicitly defended the diversity visa lottery.
“To be honest with you, I’ve known a number of people in New York who come in under the lottery system – they’ve made outstanding contributions, they’ve become citizens,” Congressman Peter King, a Republican, who was former House Homeland Security Committee chairman, told the Fox Business Channel. “So that really is separate from the idea of the vetting.”
According to the State Department, diversity visa lottery applicants must meet certain education and work experience requirements, including having obtained “at least a high school education or its equivalent” or “two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience to perform.”
The State Department determines those accepted under the programme through a randomized computer drawing, its website states.