Kennedy: End 'stupid' visa lottery program

BATON ROUGE, La. (LOCAL 33) (FOX 44) -  

Depending on who you ask, the nation’s diversity visa lottery is either a ticket to the American Dream, or it is “nonsense on a stick,” as phrased by Sen. John Kennedy.

The Republican from Louisiana is introducing a bill in the U.S. Senate that would end the program outright.

This is just a stupid way to do immigration,” Kennedy said of the lottery Wednesday. “You would be hard-pressed to find such an irrational system.”

Since 1990, the diversity visa lottery has granted up to 50,000 visas a year to applicants from countries with historically low immigration rates. While selection is largely random, candidates must have a high school diploma, or an equivalent and two years of employment. They must not have a criminal record, nor any documented ties to pre-determined terror groups. But Kennedy says the criteria has not paid little mind to merit, ignoring questions he would want the candidates to answer.

"Do you want to be an American? Are you willing to assimilate into American society?,” said Kennedy. “When you get here, do you plan on working? Or do you plan on signing up for every social program that God ever put breath in?”

The bill comes after Uzbek national Sayfullo Saipov drove a rented truck down a crowded New York city bike path on Oct. 31, killing eight and hurting more than a dozen others. Federal officials say ISIS propaganda videos inspired Saipov, now the fifth lottery recipient ever involved in a terrorist act.

I think that was a catalyst that re-energized the effort to get rid of the program, but getting rid of the visa lottery program has been talked about on Capitol Hill for quite a while.”

Tweeting less than 24 hours after the attack, President Trump referred to the "Democrat Lottery System" as "a Chuck Schumer beauty." Schumer, who currently serves as Senate Minority Leader, was serving in the House of Representatives when he introduced the bill that created the visa lottery program. The Democrat from New York has rejected the president's claim that he bears responsibility for the attack.

"President Trump, instead of politicizing and dividing America, which he always seems to do at times of a national tragedy, should be focusing on the real solution -- anti-terrorism funding -- which he proposed cutting in his most recent budget," Schumer said in a statement shortly after the attack.

The Senate previously sought to disband the lottery program as part of the "gang of eight" immigration reform package in 2013, though that legislation died in the House. Kennedy says this bill is different, because it doesn’t propose any initiatives in its place.

Clearly at least with hindsight, they made a mistake,” Kennedy said, “and they need to get rid of it.”

Applications for the 2019 diversity visa program are being accepted now through Nov. 22. Candidates are slated to learn in May if they have been selected.

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