On the afternoon of Halloween 2017 in downtown Manhattan, a 29-year-old Uzbek national identified as Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov “plowed into a crowd of bicyclists and pedestrians just blocks away from the World Trade Center.”
How did he get here? According to press reports, he immigrated through the “Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery”.
If this is true, he will not have been the first terrorist to have exploited this national security vulnerability, and unless we shut down this pointless program, he will not be the last.
On October 9, 2002, as immigration oversight counsel for the House Judiciary Committee, I participated in a hearing that I had prepared for the then-Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims relating to Hesham Mohamed Ali Hedayet. As then-Chairman George Gekas explained in his opening statement at that hearing:
This hearing has been called, as everyone knows by now, to consider the interactions between the Immigration and Naturalization Service and Hesham Mohamed Ali Hedayet. This is the individual who, on July 4, 2002, at the Los Angeles International Airport, gunned down several people, killing two, and then being caught in fire himself whereby he perished.
Hedayet was an Egyptian immigrant that day when he “strode into the airport and approached the El Al Airlines ticket counter, where he opened fire Thursday morning, killing ticket agent Victoria Hen, 25, and Yaakov Aminov, 46, who had driven a friend to the airport.”
Why was Hedayet in the United States, let alone at LAX? Bill Yates, then-deputy executive associate commissioner for the Immigration Services Division at the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) detailed Hedayet’s immigration history at that hearing.
According to Yates, Hedayet was admitted to the United States on a visitor’s visa on July 31, 1992 (with permission to remain in the United States until January 25, 1993), and subsequently applied for asylum on December 29, 1992. In that application, Hedayet claimed “discrimination and police harassment due to his religious beliefs.”
Several lottery winners have already been involved in terrorism in the United States. Michigan sleeper cell member Karim Koubriti, convicted this summer on terrorism-related charges, was a lottery winner from Morocco.
The lottery is ideal for terrorists because it encourages immigration from those parts of the world were fraud is common, documents are difficult to verify, and al Qaeda is very active. Moreover, it allows people into the country with no family or other significant connections to the United States. Again, this is tailor-made for someone wishing to attack our country. While there are other ways to enter the country, a green card is far more valuable to terrorists than a temporary visa such as those for tourists or students. A green card lets a person stay in the country indefinitely and this gives terrorists the time they may need to plan a sophisticated plot. Moreover, permanent residency allows the recipient to work at almost any job they like, get a licen[s]e to handle hazardous material, and to travel to and from the United States as often as they please. If one were to set out to design a visa that was ideal for terrorists, the visa lottery system would be it.
In addition to these terrorists, then-subcommittee Chairman John Hostettler noted that: “a Pakistani national who pleaded guilty in August 2002 to a single count of conspiracy to use arson or explosives to destroy electrical power stations in Florida … also entered the United States under the DV Program.”