The Diversity Lottery: A Stupid Idea that has Turned Dangerous

In the pantheon of stupid government programs, the Diversity Visa lottery program would have to rank near the top. Under the program, the United States admits up to 55,000 new people to our country by picking their names out of a hat (or, at least, a virtual hat).

The program was created by the late-Senator Ted Kennedy in the early 1990s, with help from then-Rep. Chuck Schumer, now the Senate Minority Leader, as a way to open the door to more Irish immigrants who could not qualify for immigration opportunities because of our equally nonsensical family chain migration policy. Of course, Schumer (and Kennedy until his death), continues to this day to defend family chain migration, and is fighting efforts to adopt a merit-based immigration policy that would obviate the need for the annual Wheel of Fortune exercise.

Unlike other dumb government programs, the Diversity lottery is also proving to be dangerous. Tuesday’s attack in lower Manhattan was carried out by a visa lottery winner, Sayfullo Saipov. Twenty pedestrians, cyclists, and kids riding a school bus who were in the wrong place at the wrong time were not so lucky. Eight of them are dead. Ironically, the victims of Saipov’s ISIS-inspired attack also represented the diversity of New York City. Among the dead were five Argentinian tourists and a Belgian citizen.

Saipov, who arrived here from Uzbekistan, went through the same “rigorous” screening that other immigrants go through. Much like Pakistani national Tafsheen Malik, the her half of the his-and-her jihadist terrorist attack two years ago in San Bernardino, California, the screening process for immigrants is not as air tight as we would be led to believe.

In 2015, Saipov was interviewed by national security officials in connection with two foreign nationals from what were described as “threat countries” whose names were entered in the Counterterrorism and Criminal Exploitation Unit’s watch list.

Nor is Saipov the first lottery winner to carry out a terrorist attack on U.S. soil. In 2002, Egyptian national Hesham Mohammed Hadayet opened fire at the El Al check-in counter at Los Angeles International Airport, killing two people. Hadayet was not a lottery winner himself. He was an illegal alien whose wife won a diversity lotter visa and he got to stay as a result.

Stupid should be reason enough to repeal a government program that serves no identifiable public interests. Stupid and dangerous is another matter. It makes continuation of Diversity Lottery program inexcusable.

About Author


Ira joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 1986 with experience as a journalist, professor of journalism, special assistant to Gov. Richard Lamm (Colorado), and press secretary of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. His columns have appeared in National Review, LA Times, NY Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, and more. He is an experienced TV and radio commentator.


  1. avatar

    A couple days ago John McCain said he hadn’t read the list of things that Trump required as part of a DACA amnesty because they were all “non starters”. A rather revealing statement. On that list was cancelling this diversity visa program. The only thing that is a starter with McCain is yet another amnesty proposal with his buddy Schumer.