NYC Bomber a Beneficiary of Chain Migration and the Visa Lottery Program

By Patrick Goodenough | December 12, 2017 | 4:19 AM EST

NYC bombing suspect Akayed Ullah was a beneficiary of chain migration and, indirectly, the diversity visa lottery system. (Image: USCIS/CNSNews.com)

(CNSNews.com) – The Bangladesh-born man who detonated a pipe bomb near Times Square on Monday morning was able to live in the United States because of chain migration and the diversity visa lottery system -- two features of the immigration system that the Trump administration wants to end.

The Department of Homeland Security confirmed that the 27-year-old Akayed Ullah entered the U.S. in 2011 on an F43 “fourth preference” family immigration visa.

That means Ullah was in the fourth (and most distant) family-relationship eligibility category – the minor child of a sibling of a U.S. citizen over 21 years of age.

DHS spokesman Tyler Houlton confirmed further that the person whose family tie had enabled Ullah to settle in the country had become a U.S. citizen after entering the U.S. through the visa lottery program.

President Trump has called for an end to both chain migration and the visa lottery program.

“As I have been saying since I first announced my candidacy for president, America must fix its lax immigration system, which allows far too many dangerous, inadequately vetted people to access our country,” Trump said in response to the attack.

“Today’s terror suspect entered our country through extended-family chain migration, which is incompatible with national security.”

Trump called on Congress to act to end chain migration, and advance his administration’s “other proposals to enhance domestic security, including increasing the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, enhancing the arrest and detention authorities for immigration officers, and ending fraud and abuse in our immigration system.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump was “concerned that Congress, particularly Democrats, have failed to take action in some places where we feel we could have prevented this [attack].”

“Specifically, the president's policy has called for an end to chain migration,” she said. “And if that had been in place, that would have prevented this individual from coming to the United States.”

According to the White House, several terror suspects have been beneficiaries of chain migration or of the visa lottery – a system that enables 50,000 foreigners to apply for permanent residence and green cards each year in a bid to increase diversity among the immigrant population by favoring applicants from low-admission countries.

They include:

--Sayfullo Saipov, an Uzbek who moved to the U.S. in 2010, who on Oct. 31 drove a rented truck into pedestrians and cyclists in Lower Manhattan, killing eight people.

--Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, another Uzbek and visa lottery winner, who was sentenced in October to 15 years’ imprisonment for conspiring to provide material support to ISIS.

--Hesham Mohamed Hedayet, an Egyptian national who opened fire at the counter of the Israeli carrier El Al at Los Angeles airport on Independence Day in 2002, killing two. Hedayet had become a lawful permanent resident on the basis of his wife’s visa lottery win in 1997 (after his own application for asylum was rejected.)

--Imran Mandhai, a Pakistani who was arrested in 2002 and convicted of plotting to bomb targets in Florida including a National Guard armory. Mandhai immigrated to the U.S. on the basis of his parents’ visa lottery win. After serving most of his 14-year jail sentence he was deported from the U.S. in 2015.

Official figures show that over the past decade, almost 30,000 nationals of three countries currently designated by the U.S. government as state-sponsors of terror have obtained green cards through the visa lottery program – more than 20,700 Iranians, 7,200 Sudanese and 800 Syrians.

Legislation introduced by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) last February – the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act – would end the diversity visa lottery and significantly reduce chain migration by retaining only two categories for family sponsorship – spouses and unmarried minor children.


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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow