In targeting diversity visa program, Trump gets it wrong again

In targeting diversity visa program, Trump gets it wrong again
© Getty

This week, President Donald Trump called for an end to the Diversity Visa (DV) program after singling out the perpetrator of Tuesday’s attack in New York City as a DV recipient. It is clear that President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 panel plans to subpoena Trump lawyer who advised on how to overturn election Texans chairman apologizes for 'China virus' remark Biden invokes Trump in bid to boost McAuliffe ahead of Election Day MORE’s opposition to the DV program is misguided and inappropriate, steeped in the blatant bias that has punctuated his presidency thus far.

Since taking office, President Trump’s reactions to major national security threats have been reckless, with a double standard that actually endangers our country instead of actually keeping it safe. Since taking office, President Trump has seen four major acts of violence (the Portland, Ore., train stabbing; Charlottesville, Va.; Las Vegas shooting; and, now, New York) in the United States, with the highest fatalities occurring in Las Vegas with a white shooter.

ADVERTISEMENT
Yet while the president has been silent on solutions to acts of mass violence writ large, when the perpetrator is Muslim, there is an immediate, disproportionate response that largely discriminates against disadvantaged minority groups, such as Arabs, Muslims and those perceived to be Arab or Muslim.

DV recipients are usually from some of the poorest countries and hope to come to the U.S. to live the “American Dream.” Many are extraordinarily hard workers who provide for themselves and their families. Additionally, DV applicants fulfill the program's goal to admit more immigrants from "countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States," according to the State Department. The DV program not only supports the “American Dream” as it is understood by individuals, it also upholds the American principles of diversity, fairness and respect.  

The DV program, established in 1990, makes available 50,000 immigrant visas annually for individuals selected through a lottery process.  All DV applicants must: (1) meet certain requirements; (2) successfully complete a conventional, comprehensive Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application; (3) provide extensive, personal “supporting” documents; (4) undergo a medical examination; and (5) complete an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate with an immigration officer.

At any time in the DV application process, a selectee’s application can be discarded for any reason. In 2015, more than 9 million people applied for only 50,000 slots, meaning that just one half of one percent of applicants for a DV actually receive a Permanent Resident Card through the DV program. Even after receiving a DV, U.S. Customs and Border Protection still retain the right to deny admission into the U.S. to any D.V. recipient. The DV application process is rigorous in upholding our national security through extensive regulations and procedures.

A wide variety of individuals have received DVs. Some DV recipients are grocery store clerks, assembly line workers, and truck drivers, while others are professional actors and athletes. Notable beneficiaries of the DV include soccer player Freddy Adu, football player Zoltan Mesko, and civil rights attorney Carla Gericke.

My organization, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) is currently litigating against the U.S. State Department’s actions over this past year, which unlawfully placed DVs in administrative processing to make sure DVs wouldn’t be awarded to deserving applicants from the six countries identified in the Trump administration’s various Arab and Muslim travel bans.

President Trump’s today further show how his administration is attempting to go against established U.S. law to destroy the DV program, furthering an agenda with little interest in what actually keeps us safe. The Trump administration’s actions in this regard are extremely reckless, heartless, ill-conceived and, in some cases, completely illegal.

Ultimately, President Trump’s call this week is misguided and inappropriate because it does not address any of the problems he wishes to attack. Instead, President Trump is criticizing a program that helps underprivileged individuals around the globe create better lives for themselves, their families, and their communities. Leadership that is steeped in cowardice seeks to divide us to maintain power; it takes bravery to bring us and keep us together. As a nation, let us not be manipulated. Let us not give into our fears and further these reckless “solutions.”

Abed A. Ayoub is the legal and policy director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the country’s largest Arab-American civil rights organization.