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After New York attack, Trump goes from extreme vetting to diversity visa

After ordering a stepping up of the extreme vetting programme, President Donald Trump turned on the Diversity Visa Lottery Programme that was reportedly used by attacker Sayfullo Saipov to enter the US.

world Updated: Nov 02, 2017 00:05 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Manhattan attack,President Donald Trump,extreme vetting progamme
President Donald Trump speaking during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. Trump is calling for “merit-based immigration” following the truck attack in New York City that killed eight people and injured 11. Trump tweeted on Wednesday that the driver in the attack “came into our country through what is called the ‘Diversity Visa Lottery Program,’ a Chuck Schumer beauty.” (AP File Photo)

Within hours of the Manhattan terror attack on Tuesday, President Donald Trump ordered the department of homeland security to “step up” the already extreme vetting of visitors to the US, saying, ominously, this wasn’t the time to be politically correct.

The day after, Trump, joined by allies on the extreme right, launched a blistering attack on the Democrats for supporting a visa programme Sayfullo Saipov, the 29-year-old attacker from Uzbekistan, is said to have used to enter the US in 2010. He was on a green card.

“I have just ordered Homeland Security to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program. Being politically correct is fine, but not for this!” Trump tweeted on Tuesday night. But he did not explain “step up” and there was no word from the department of homeland security.

On Wednesday morning, Trump turned on the visa programme and immigration. “The terrorist came into our country through what is called the ‘Diversity Visa Lottery Program,’ a Chuck Schumer beauty,” he tweeted, referring to a state department programme that grants 50,000 visas through an annual lottery to people from countries with low rates of immigration to the US.

Schumer is a Democratic senator from New York who supported the programme in 1990, and it became part of a wider immigration package that passed with bipartisan support in Congress and was signed into law by a Republican president, George HW Bush, the same year.

“I guess it's not too soon to politicise a tragedy,” Schumer, the minority leader in the Senate, hit back on Twitter. He added in a statement: “President Trump, instead of politicising 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.”

Schumer was joined by conservatives as well, such as leading commentator Erik Erickson, who tweeted, “Dear GOP, why not wait to politicise the attack by going straight to immigration tough talk? Were a gun involved, you’d ask the D’s (Democrats) to wait.”

Trump went on to argue for his proposed merit-based immigration system: “We are fighting hard for Merit Based immigration, no more Democrat Lottery Systems. We must get MUCH tougher (and smarter).”

Republicans have for long opposed the diversity programme.

In 2013, the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill put together by a bipartisan group of eight senators, including Schumer, that proposed to do away with the diversity visa programme, among other things. The bill failed to pass the House of Representatives and fell.

It wasn’t clear if Trump’s order to “step up” the extreme vetting programme for visitors was related in any way to the diversity visa programme or his controversial travel ban on the entry of visitors from certain Muslim-majority countries or presaged further changes in the vetting process.

Trump introduced extreme vetting in an executive order he signed within days of taking office in January. “We are establishing new vetting measures, to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America,” he had said, adding, “We don’t want ’em here.”

In his first tweets after the Manhattan attack, Trump had said, “In NYC, looks like another attack by a very sick and deranged person. Law enforcement is following this closely. NOT IN THE USA?…We must not allow ISIS to return, or enter, our country after defeating them in the Middle East and elsewhere. Enough!”

First Published: Nov 01, 2017 22:00 IST