(CNSNews.com) -- The U.S. government through its Visa Lottery program issued 28,783 visas to people from countries designated as "State Sponsors of Terrorism" between 2007 and 2016, according to the White House, based on data from the U.S. State Department.
“In the last decade, the U.S. issued nearly 30,000 permanent residence visas through the Visa Lottery to randomly selected nationals from countries designated as "State Sponsors of Terrorism" by the State Department," said the White House in a Nov. 13 email. "This does not include the additional tens of thousands of foreign nationals admitted from these countries through other immigration categories (such as family-based immigration, as well as asylee, refugee, and others).”
The three state sponsors of terrorism were Iran, Sudan and Syria.
According to the data, the number of visas from those countries increased substantially under the two Obama administrations. For instance, in 2008, the last full year of the George W. Bush administration, 841 lottery visas were granted to Iran; in 2016, the last full year of the Obama administration, 2,788 lottery visas were selected from Iran.
Syria got 40 lottery visas in 2008 and 164 lottery visas in 2016.
The suspect in the Oct. 31, 2017 Islamic terrorism attack in New York City is Sayfullo Saipov, who entered the United States through the Visa Lottery program. In the Oct. 31 attack, using a rented truck as a weapon, 8 people were killed and 12 were injured.
The White House email states, "President Trump has called on Congress to eliminate the Visa Lottery and end Chain Migration.... [T]hese policies endanger national security, strain federal resources, and imperil the economic security of vulnerable American workers."
"Every single year, through a computer-generated random drawing, the Visa Lottery selects 50,000 foreign nationals to apply for permanent residence in the United States and get Green Cards," states the email. "Many of them have absolutely no ties to the United States, no special skills, and limited education.
"The Visa Lottery program was championed by Ted Kennedy in 1990 and co-sponsored by Chuck Schumer. In a May 2006 floor speech, Schumer praised what he called 'an excellent program' and urged his colleagues to keep it in operation. 'My city of New York has dramatically benefited from this program,' Schumer said, 'So I plead with my colleagues, keep the diversity visa program.'"
With chain migration, a lottery visa immigrant can sponsor his or her family members to come live in the United States. A recent report by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) showed that for every one lottery immigrant, an additional 3.45 family members, on average, were sponsored (chain migration). From its analysis, CIS said that between 1994 and 2016, there were 1,102,373 diversity lottery visa immigrants and an average estimated 3,803,187 chain migrants.
"Family-based immigration has accounted for more than 60% of new immigration to the U.S. over the last 35 years—or roughly 20 million new foreign nationals," stated the White House email. "As Green Card holders, these foreign nationals have a pathway to U.S. citizenship, which allows them to vote in U.S. elections and access federal benefits paid for by U.S. taxpayers."
President Trump wants to replace the visa lottery and chain migration with a merit-based immigration system.
As explained by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, “The president’s immigration plan would switch us to a merit-based immigration system. He would abolish the Diversity Visa Lottery and replace it with a points-based system like is used in Canada and Australia. This is the best way to ensure that the immigration system in America is benefitting America. We don’t use random chance in college admissions and we don’t roll a die to hire people."
"By the same token, a lottery tells us nothing about who would thrive in this country," said Sessions. "This merit-based system would be a boon to our economy and raise wages. But it is not just an issue of economic security; it is an issue of national security. A merit-based system, by definition, would be safer than a lottery or even extended family-based immigration."
"The president’s plan is essential to protecting our national security, while also banning drunk drivers, fraudsters, gang members, and child abusers," said the attorney general. "It’s time to end the Diversity Lottery in favor of a rational, merit-based system.”