Trump Talked About the Visa Lottery System. Here Are the Facts
His claims about the visa lottery system have been both misleading and sometimes false.
US President Donald Trump announced his wish to end the visa lottery system during his first State of the Union Address Tuesday night.
“[It’s] a program that randomly hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit or the safety of our people,” he said.
The visa lottery system has been a consistent target of Trump who has blamed it for letting unskilled and potentially dangerous immigrants into the US.
"They give us their worst people, they put 'em in a bin," Trump told a crowd at the FBI academy in December. ”It's really the worst of the worst. 'Congratulations, you're going to the United States.' What a system."
When the man who rampaged down a bike lane in New York with a truck last November, killing eight people and injuring 11, Trump suggested that the visa lottery program was to blame.
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
As part of his “four pillars” of immigration reform, Trump also wants to end family-based migration, restrict the overall number of immigrants who can come to the US, ramp up border security and law enforcement, and create a path to citizenship for the so-called “Dreamers” who used to be protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals plan.
But his claims about the visa lottery system have been both misleading and sometimes false.
So here are 10 facts about the program:
1/ The visa lottery system was first proposed by Massachusetts Congressman Brian Donnelly in 1986 as a way to give Irish and other European citizens who didn’t have family in the US a chance to enter the country, according to the New York Times.
2/ It was formalized into law in 1990, and Chuck Schumer was the lead sponsor, hence Trump’s remarks aimed at Schumer.
3/ The program sets aside 50,000 greencards each year that millions of people around the world apply for. People from countries with high immigration rates to the US, like Mexico, China, and India, are not allowed to apply.
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4/ Around 100,000 names are drawn randomly by a computer, fewer than 1% of total applicants, and these winners must pay several hundred dollars in fees to undergo a months-long background check, intensive interviews, a medical check, and prove that they have at least two years of high school education or two years of work experience within the last five years.
5/ Ultimately, the number of accepted applicants is whittled down to 50,000. Some people are removed for failing to comply with requirements, others are barred because each country can only account for 7% of winners, and some are blocked simply because the quota of 50,000 has been reached.
6/ These 50,000 applicants are then able to bring their immediate family to the US and apply for citizenship within five years like other immigrants who have greencards.
7/ Despite isolated crimes, visa lottery winners do not pose a security risk to the US, the Government Accountability Office found in a report. That’s partly because of the background check that’s conducted to determine eligibility.
8/ There are, however, many instances of fraud, according to the New York Times. For example, someone could submit numerous applications, or sell off marriage rights once winning the lottery as a way to game the family allowance rule.
9/ European applicants were initially overrepresented in the program, but now nearly 50% come from Africa, according to the Times.
10/ In 2016, the countries with the most winners were Nepal, Egypt, and Iran, according to the State Department.