Terror in New York: it’s what you get when you play the Green Card Lottery

The unplanned life is not worth living. – Norman DeWitt

The word lottery is typically auspicious. It usually means that someone who was poor or average suddenly has the chance to become rich, or win a prize.

But yesterday we learned that an Islamic terrorist and ISIS sympathizer from Uzbekistan who had entered the United States on a “Diversity Visa Lottery” decided to offer eight innocent civilians as human sacrifices to his God, and injured another 11 people in New York City while screaming “God is Great!” (Allahu Akbar). He later bragged from his hospital bed about the heinous crimes he had just committed.

According to this US Immigration page, the DV lottery:

… more commonly known as the Green Card Lottery, is … designed to ensure plenty of diversity in US immigration, so only individuals from countries underrepresented in US immigration are usually allowed to apply.

And according to this page, the quota to meet is 50,000 random, lucky souls annually. I suppose the idea behind the visa program is to allow people from all corners of the world to enter the U.S., and not necessarily those with a certain job experience, skill set, or educational background that may be in demand, or those with capital to invest, or those with a certain I.Q. or certain educational achievements (PhD, Masters or other degree), or even those with the greatest need or in the greatest threat due to violence or lack of civil rights in their home country. Trump says he wants “merit based” immigration, but that’s not a clear standard, and I for one would like to read a clear definition of what he means.

Lottery visas may seem justified and fair, but in reality it is not normal to give away “lottery visas” in most countries in the world, and on its face it does seem like a strange method of engineering a society–akin to reading the entrails of a sacrificial goat to determine who gets in and who doesn’t. Some countries are **very** particular about who they want in terms of skills or background. Israel, for instance, recognizes a “right of return” (right to make aliyah) for anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent. Japan is notorious for its strict immigration policies.

Every country, as a natural function of its sovereignty, has a right to plan who it will allow to immigrate–and should do so carefully since, once incorporated, immigrant populations will become forever embedded and interwoven into one’s society.

Our safety and security are not the only legitimate concerns raised by the lottery visa program. Isolation is a mental and physical health risk factor on par with obesity and smoking. We have no certainty that a person coming from one of the “underrepresented countries” that the lottery program targets will be able to easily adapt to American society, particularly if he speaks a language that is only spoken in his home country. Might it not be easier for that person to migrate to a country nearer to his home country, with a larger immigrant population from his land so that he can integrate more easily?

Immigration has been definitely a defining feature of the American experience from the onset, but that does not mean that a mindless, unplanned visa lottery makes sense for this or any other country. People like Sayfullo Saipov, our terrorist villain of the week, clearly was not a good fit: he did not share our values or vision for a free society, had declared allegiance to a party that we are at war with, and did not fit the profile of those “yearning to breathe free” that America–the “Mother of Exiles”–intended to open its arms to. Some people come here seeking religious and other freedoms, but many religious people (and particularly many Muslims, and other orthodox and fundamentalist groups) are anathema to freedom.

Re-reading the Emma Lazarus sonnet The New Colossus might help to remind us that at our gates stands none other than Lady Liberty. She’s liberal, open, tolerant, but still she sets a standard for people who wish to enter: thirst for freedom.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

My solidarity and my thoughts are with the victims of yesterday’s attack, which include five Argentinians and one Belgian.

 Further Reading:
Finding a Rootless Life in U.S., Sayfullo Saipov Turned to Radicalism
NYC terror attack suspect sought to display ISIS flag in hospital room

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About hiramcrespo

Hiram Crespo is the author of 'Tending the Epicurean Garden' and founder of societyofepicurus.com. He's also written for The Humanist, Eidolon, Occupy, The New Humanism, The Secular Web, Europa Laica, AteístasPR, and many other outlets.
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