Donald Trump has declared he wants to immediately work with Congress to terminate the diversity immigration lottery programme, which he says is how the 'animal' New York terror suspect got into the US.
“We need to get rid of the lottery program as soon as possible,” Mr Trump told reporters. “We’re going to quickly as possible get rid of chain migration and move to a merit programme.”
Similar to how he responded to previous major terror attacks in the US and abroad, the President has vowed to toughen immigration restrictions after a truck driver rammed into bicyclists and pedestrians on a bike path in Manhattan, killing eight people.
Mr Trump has also assailed Senator Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the Senate, who in 1990 introduced the bill in the House of Representatives that helped create the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program – despite the fact that Mr Schumer was among a bipartisan group of lawmakers in 2013 who sought to end it.
“The terrorist came into our country through what is called the 'Diversity Visa Lottery Program,' a Chuck Schumer beauty,” the President tweeted earlier on Wednesday.
A 29-year-old Uzbek national with Isis associations is suspected to have carried out the attack. The US Department of Homeland Security later confirmed that he was admitted to the US in 2010 with a diversity immigrant visa.
The programme awards up to 50,000 visas per year to people from parts of the world that have relatively few immigrants in the US.
More than 45,500 diversity visas were issued in 2016.
In 1990, when Mr Schumer was part of the House, he proposed making a set number of visas available each year to “diversity immigrants” from “low-admission” countries.
The New York Democrat's measure was absorbed into a broader House immigration bill, which was sponsored by him and 31 other members of Congress, including several Republicans. The legislation received bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, and was signed into law by Republican President George HW Bush.
In 2007, the US Government Accountability Office reviewed the programme and found no documented evidence that diversity immigrants posed a terrorist threat. But legislators have continued to say there are national security reasons for eliminating the programme.
Mr Schumer was part of the Senate’s Gang of Eight in 2013 that came up with sweeping bipartisan legislation aimed at improving the US's immigration laws. Among other proposals, the measure called for cancelling the diversity lottery.
After Mr Trump attacked the Democrat over the programme, Republican Senator Jeff Flake – who dramatically announced last week that he would not seek re-election – came to Mr Schumer's defence.
“Actually, the Gang of 8, including @SenSchumer, did away with the Diversity Visa Program as part of broader reforms. I know, I was there,” Mr Flake, an outspoken critic of Trump, wrote on Twitter. “In fact, had the Senate Gang of 8 bill passed the House, it would have ended the Visa Lottery Program AND increased merit based visas.”
The bill passed in the Senate but died in the House.
Mr Schumer also responded to Mr Trump's criticism by blasting the President for polticising the New York attack.
“I have always believed and continue to believe that immigration is good for America,” Mr Schumer said 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.”
The senator called on Mr Trump “to immediately rescind his proposed cuts to this vital anti-terrorism funding.”
The midyear budget proposal from Trump called for cutting more than half a billion dollars from “critical counterterrorism programs” administered by the Department of Homeland Security, according to a congressional report.
On the Senate floor later on Wednesday, Mr Schumer doubled down on his denunciation of the President's tweets.
“President Bush in a moment of national tragedy understood the meaning of his high office. ...President Trump where is your leadership?” Mr Schumer said. “The contrast between President Bush's actions after 9/11 and President Trump's actions this morning could not be starker.”
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