The Corner

Politics & Policy

Dying for Diversity

In response to

Just to piggyback on what Mark has already said about the immigrant “diversity lottery” — which bike-path terrorist Sayfullo Saipov reportedly used to gain entry into the U.S. — the irrationality of the program is striking. As I noted in an NR magazine essay way back in 2011, our immigration system is built on three main goals that most Americans endorse to one degree or another: reuniting families, adding specialized skills, and helping people displaced by war or persecution. There is much disagreement over how to balance those goals, but randomly distributing green cards to certain countries, as the diversity lottery does, accomplishes none of them. It does not bring families together, make our workforce more skilled, or further any humanitarian ends.

Defending the lottery in 2006, Senator Chuck Schumer stated that “it had a very simple purpose . . . our immigration laws were based on family reunification and certain other qualifications [useful skills], so there were whole ranges of countries from which people could not get visas.” There you have it. The only purpose of the program is right there in the name — “diversity,” which is as empty a purpose as one can imagine. “The U.S. isn’t Noah’s Ark,” Powerline’s Paul Mirengoff noted yesterday. “We don’t need immigrants from every country.” Especially not immigrants selected at random.

One terrorist incident by itself does not justify abolishing a program, but it does bring the pointlessness of the lottery into sharp relief. When a refugee commits terrorism, there is perhaps some minor consolation that our heart was in the right place when we brought him here. For all the problems with our refugee program — and there are many — at least it is rooted in our desire to alleviate human suffering around the globe. But Sayfullo Saipov was not invited for any humanitarian reason, nor was he invited to rejoin family members or to apply his specialized skills. He was invited because his name was drawn out of a diversity hat. Cold comfort to his victims, indeed.

Jason Richwine is a public-policy analyst and a contributor to National Review Online.

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