Political News

Trump campaign fundraises off NYC attack, diversity visas

Posted November 2, 2017 5:02 p.m. EDT

— Amid the President's own controversial comments about this week's New York City terrorist attack, the Trump campaign sent out a fundraising email Thursday to supporters linking the attack with an immigration program the President wants to end.

The email was sent by the "Trump Make America Great Again Committee," the joint fundraising vehicle of the Republican National Committee and Trump's campaign. In it, the campaign asked supporters to add their names to an "official petition" to the White House to end the diversity visa lottery.

"The deranged animal who terrorized New York City came into our country through the 'Diversity Visa Lottery' -- a politically correct government program that selects new immigrants at random with no other purpose than to fill quotas," the email started. "We can no longer sacrifice our sanity and our security at the altar of political correctness. ... Now (Trump) needs you to join the call to end this backwards program."

Once a supporter enters their name on the "Official Petition W.H. 4540" page, they are prompted to donate to the fund. Preemptively, the email further encourages supporters by noting the email may draw controversy.

"The fake news media is going to unleash a flurry of attacks against this petition," the email reads. "Which is why the President truly needs your support."

The White House declined to comment and the RNC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program awards up to 50,000 individuals per year with a visa that paves the way for a green card and eventually a path to citizenship. Visas are awarded by random selection in certain countries to promote immigration from places that don't otherwise send many immigrants to the US. Critics complain that the program brings people to compete for American jobs without matching their skills to needs in the US.

The 29-year-old Uzbek national suspected of committing Tuesday's terror attack, which killed eight people and injured a dozen more, first came to the US on a diversity visa in 2010.

Trump has linked that fact with a call to shut down the program -- and to restrict other forms of immigration to the US.

"The people put in that lottery are not that country's finest," Trump said before a White House meeting Thursday. "We know that the program presents significant vulnerabilities to our national security. It's a very unsafe program for our country and we're not going to allow it to happen."

While individuals are selected for visas randomly, they still are vetted for security and eligibility requirement.

Diversity recipients must also meet unique requirements attached to the visa: They must have at least a high school education or equivalent and must have had at least two years of experience working a job that requires at least two years of training or experience within five years of the date of the application. They must also be admissible to the US -- categories of inadmissibility to the US broadly include terrorism connections. The process includes an in-person interview.

Asked about the President's push to end the diversity lottery on Capitol Hill on Thursday, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio noted that the 2013 bipartisan Senate immigration bill he helped write did just that, and Congress could be open to it. But he also rejected the notion that the issue should be linked to the terror attack.

"I think (the lottery) is an idea that really outlived its usefulness if it ever had any, but unrelated to what happened in New York," Rubio said. "I don't even know the circumstances by which that terrorist entered the United States, but it sounded like his radicalization came way after. We just didn't think we needed a diversity lottery (in 2013)."

Democrats have slammed the President as politicizing the attack.

"We must take swift and decisive action to bring the perpetrator of this heinous attack to justice. But the President is exploiting a national tragedy to further his anti-immigrant agenda and once again divide our nation," Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement Wednesday. "It is shameful to wrongfully build suspicion around people who immigrated here legally and are contributing to our country."