The US immigration system is significantly flawed; it paves the way for terrorists to enter the country. Since 9/11, no serious actions have been taken to address this fundamental problem. Mercifully, President Donald Trump announced yesterday that he wants the Diversity Visa Program terminated.
As the world now knows, on October 31, in a jihadi vehicular attack, a terrorist, Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, drove a rented pickup-truck onto a crowded bicycle path in lower Manhattan. He murdered at least eight innocent people -- including students, school staff and tourists celebrating a reunion -- and wounded eleven people. He celebrated by shouting "Allahu Akbar" ("Allah is the greatest"). After police stopped his rampage by shooting and wounding him, he asked for an ISIS flag to be brought to his hospital room.
While politicians avoid the truth that "lone wolves" among terrorists effectively do not exist and, along with many in the mainstream media, refuse to tackle the underlying cause of this terror act and refrain from fully reporting on terrorism, we all badly need an open discussion about it.
The mainstream media would doubtless prefer to hide from you that Saipov, an Uzbek national, came to the US thanks to Senator Chuck Schumer's "Diversity Program," and that there are many flaws in the US immigration system. The Diversity Visa lottery is high among them.
The program accepts 50,000 people a year, totally at random. Citizens from some countries that are US-friendly, such as Canada and the United Kingdom, are not even allowed to apply. Other countries, known to be epicenters of jihadists and Islamist ideologies, are permitted to participate. The applicant does not even need to have a high school education. Among the heaviest users of this lottery are people in countries known to have terrorism problems -- specifically Middle Eastern, North African and Central Asian countries, including Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Syria, Turkey, Yemen, and Uzbekistan.
If you had grown up, as I did, in Syria and Iran, you would have seen Islamists gathering in groups to further their goals. You would also have seen them encouraging and informing their affiliate groups through various means, including social media, to enter the US Diversity Visa program. This, they openly felt, was their opportunity to access the US and cause destruction to the country and its people, which they viewed as their enemy.
Worse in this lottery is, not just the winner gains access. When a foreign person wins the lottery, the US gives out visas to his or her family as well -- no matter where they were born. As a result, the number of people that come into the US thanks to the lottery program is actually far larger than 50,000 a year.
In addition, applicants do not need to have skills, education, training, or even the ability to speak English -- in total contrast to successful immigration policies in other advanced countries, where immigrants must score high regarding the required skills, talents, and language before they are admitted.
Other countries look for -- and get -- the best from other nations, and vet them carefully; the US just gives out green cards to anyone unreservedly.
The application can be easily completed on a website, and applying is free. If the applicant wins, he receives a permanent green card, paving the way for citizenship.
Furthermore, this is happening while many, far more qualified and hardworking people in the US, including skilled workers, taxpayers, doctors, engineers and CEOs, remain on temporary visas for years. Others wait and struggle interminably, to obtain a green card legally.
If even a few of the tens of thousands of Islamists who apply for the visa lottery every year kill "infidel" Americans and terrorize a whole nation, they have accomplished their goal.
While terrorist attacks are the most visible crimes committed as a result of this lottery, others go unnoticed. Even the lottery itself has become fraudulent. According to testimony from Stephen A. Edson before the House Judiciary Committee:
"In Bangladesh, for example, one agent is reported to have enrolled an entire phone book so that he could then either extort money from winning applicants who had never entered the program to begin with or sell their winning slots to others."
The lottery program also poses health risks to Americans. If and when global epidemics occur, such as the Ebola virus, the lottery visa program does not stop. People with viruses and other serious infectious diseases can easily get into the country.
Even the screening and enforcement procedures are unreliable and pose a significant national security risk. As Janice Kephart, then National Security Fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, testified before Congress in 2011:
"The Diversity Visa (DV) Program is an unfortunate blind spot in our immigration system that has outlived whatever purpose it might have had. The applicants for these 50,000 "visa lottery" immigration slots require few skills. Neither their qualifications nor identity can be properly vetted. The program does not know, really, who these applicants are or their true purpose in coming to the United States. The program is a national security vulnerability, and has been used by terrorists and organized criminals to not only enter the United States, but to bring others in as well.According to unofficial statements from the State Department, the program is rife with fraud in part because application standards are so low".
Regarding the flimsy requirements and enormous resources that the US waste for this program, Kephart added:
"The program claims to have strict eligibility requirements, but only calls for a high school education or its equivalent or two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation requiring at least two years of training or experience. In most of the countries eligible for a diversity visa, neither education nor work experience can be verified, let alone identity. Consular officers in U.S. embassies abroad thus spend an inordinate amount of time attempting to determine if people are who they say they are and actually qualify for the program. Checking watch lists based on names or prior U.S. immigration histories thus often has little bearing on making a solid determination of identity, qualifications, or legitimate national security concerns."
Even known civil rights activists, such as Barbara Jordan, have pointed out that the Diversity Visa lottery does not provide any benefits to this nation. Despite all of this, the Diversity Visa 2019 green card lottery registration is now open.
Instead of worrying about political correctness, let us focus on how to protect this nation. The terrorists, who share the goal of devastating everything we value, do not care about political correctness or what the true purpose of the lottery might be. They see only the opportunity to take advantage of a hole in our immigration security. Instead of standing by and letting this continue, let us start, as the president suggested, by stopping the absurd and obsolete Diversity Visa lottery. The program serves no humanitarian, political, or economic purpose for America.
Imagine how much more devastation will occur if nothing is done.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, is a Harvard-educated scholar and political scientist, business advisor, board member of Harvard International Review, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He is the author of "Peaceful Reformation in Iran's Islam". He can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@Post.Harvard.Edu.